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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monday-memoir-badge

 

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

 

 

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Some Thoughts on Indoctrination

November 2, 2015 at 12:30 am | Posted in divisions in society, Philosophy, Politics, Religion | 8 Comments
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This may not be strictly memoir, but it is related to issues that writing my memoir articles is throwing up.

After I had written last Monday’s post about the things I learned as a Catholic child. I went through it and added the photos – including one of the Sacred Heart statue that sat in Mum & Dad’s home for 72 years.

The statue made me feel somewhat nostalgic, as did the photos of the holy cards I used. But my overall feeling after having written and thought through those things I learned as a child was a mixture of sadness and anger. Anger at what I was brainwashed into, anger and sadness at both what I lost as a thinking person, and at how my life has been blighted in some ways by the doctrines I believed were true when I was a child.

There were other feelings there too; anxiety and foreboding, but also an awareness and understanding of one of the problems we face in today’s local and international turbulence. Looking back at how we were taught Catholic dogma, kept within the confines of that one religion, and with no comprehension of what the real world was like, certainly makes me much more able to understand now how young people can be brainwashed by authorities into believing pretty well anything.

They are taught, and can come to deeply believe, that theirs is the only, the one true religion. That theirs is the only system that will save them and the world. That all those who don’t believe as they do wish to destroy them. And, therefore, that those ‘others’ must be destroyed before they themselves are destroyed.

The younger and more isolated they are from the outside world and its pluralist nature, the more easily children – and even adults – can be controlled, even to the point where they will freely give up their lives for the cause.

I look at how I believed, as a child, that I would have given my life for my faith if called upon to do so. I’d been taught that martyrs would be automatically granted entry to Heaven. And that is what the teachings of some other radical religious groups are. The fear of dying can be overcome by the intense belief that Heaven, Paradise, whatever it is called, is there, just waiting for you when you give this earthly life for the cause.

I am not doing research here; I am just looking at my own life then and now, reflecting upon it and seeing what could have been had the Catholic Church in the 1950s and 1960s been as militant as it used to be only a few hundred years ago. As militant as some factions are today. And it is not just religious beliefs that can be this way.

What about other belief systems – political parties and governments; belief in racial superiority and inferiority; the ‘them’ and ‘us’ of any situation that human beings find themselves in? Look at what has happened in history – Communism, the Nazis, the KKK, and what is happening today in North Korea and the Middle East, among others.

This polarisation will continue for a long time yet – perhaps for millennia if we survive that long. Because, unless our brains and bodies evolve from the base animal instinct of fighting for survival against any group we perceive to be different, to an instinct that is more co-operative and supportive, I believe we will always see Them and Us.

But evolution takes time. So our species may have killed itself off – along with the rest of the natural world – before we manage to get to that stage of development. I only wish it could be different

Isn’t it interesting how small things, like remembering one’s childhood, can provoke deeper thought – even upon the essence of mankind and our future of the world!

Are these thoughts familiar to you? Do you agree with the deliberate inculcating religious or other beliefs into the minds of young children? Please play nice! J

(c) Linda Visman

A to Z Challenge – T is for Time

April 23, 2015 at 12:05 am | Posted in A-Z Blogging Challenge 2015, History, Philosophy, Poetry | 13 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE [2015] - Life is Good

Time – framed

 

Have you ever wondered where ‘time’ comes from? I wrote this poem after I heard the clock chime midnight.

.

Twelve chimes mark the end of day

and the beginning of the next.

Although Man’s own construct

Time seems almost mystical

measuring our days as we move

from past through present

to future.

.

How many days will we own?

One or nine hundred,

or twenty-five thousand –

our three score and ten.

In our allotted days

life becomes complete –

or at least completed.

.

We waste our minutes

count our hours

measure our months

celebrate our years.

.

And yet they do not exist in reality

but only in our minds.

We did not need them in the forests

nor in the caves.

.

But as we hunted and gathered

we became aware of seasons

and named them, giving them magic

framing the cycles of life

of planting, growth and harvest

binding them to us

in ritual and celebration.

.

And so we created Time –

to measure the seasons

to plan our toil and our rest

to measure our lives

to provide meaning and certainty.

.

Now, Time is a number

measurable beyond the change

from season to season

or from night to day.

Time is hours, minutes and seconds

nanoseconds

timetables and calendars

Time is money

Time marches on.

.

The tool has become the master;

our creation has become a tyrant.

We don’t have time

Time waits for no man

Time’s up.

.

Perhaps we should take

Time out.

.

(c) Linda Visman

A to Z Challenge – G is for Going Grand

April 8, 2015 at 12:05 am | Posted in History, Philosophy, Poetry | 7 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE [2015] - Life is Good

It is amazing what can inspire a poem. This one came from a newspaper report I read of an airline crash.

Going Grand

 

An old postcard, tucked into the mirror.

the writing, scrawled and faded.

….

How close is Death? Can we ever know?

Awareness of the grave is

a sword of Damocles above my head,

held by a single, flimsy thread;

waiting for a weakness, a jolt, a blade.

Inevitable extinction; the flip side,

the corollary – the end point, of life.

How long abides that life?

….

I turned the postcard over

to see the picture on the front.

….

Last week, a friend died,

six weeks short of his century,

a former prisoner of war

who reconciled enemies

and bequeathed to generations,

his life’s spirit, fruitful and inspiring.

….

Others died last week:

Wombed babies, aborted

by accident or design;

Infants, starved by war and famine;

Children, lost to accident or affliction,

neglect or violence;

Life barely tasted.

….

A curlicued border surrounded

the sepia photograph of a mighty ship.

….

Some died in the midst of life:

young men who drove too fast or lived too hard;

innocent victims of hate and suicide bombers;

soldiers, sacrificed in wars decreed by others.

Some welcomed Death’s cold embrace,

escaping the heated anguish of Life.

….

Others slipped away under the allure

of mind-altering drugs.

And how many others were just

in the wrong place at the wrong time?

….

The “Titanic”, in all her majesty;

symbol of a new and glorious future,

magnificently portrayed.

….

What of we, who have tasted

Life’s full flavour –

or frittered it away

in wasteful might-have-beens?

….

Are our lives any different

to those foreshortened?

Do we, any more than they,

know the time of our passing?

….

Dear friend, the writing on the back said,

‘just a line to show I am alive

and kicking and going grand.’

….

Death comes by chance alone

it seems at times – Fate’s whimsy.

Many say that Life and Death,

their time and span,

are not ours to determine,

but are in the hands of God;

or perhaps of Destiny –

our time written in the stars.

We do not know the hour;

and if we did,

would it make a difference?

….

The postcard was dated the day before

the ill-fated vessel sank beneath

the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

….

 

(c)  Linda Visman

Written after reading an article by Matt Price in Weekend Australian (10th Feb. 07) about the death, last week, of one journalist and the serious injury of another in the Garuda Airlines crash in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Price mentions the story of an old postcard that cosmologist, Carl Sagan, kept near his shaving mirror.

Matt Price himself died towards the end of 2007 of a brain tumour. He was aged in his early forties.

Share Your World – Week 42

October 21, 2014 at 8:06 pm | Posted in Australia, Mental Health, Philosophy, Ways of Living | 10 Comments
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Share Your World blog badge

Here are my responses to Cee’s  latest questions to get to know each other at Share Your World

What would be your preference, awake before dawn or awake before noon?

Night Owl  I am a night owl, so I find it both hard to go to bed and hard to get up in the morning. I know I get a lot of writing and scrapbooking done in the later hours, but I also miss seeing the sun rise and getting household tasks over and done with early.

I used to be up and about very early when I was teaching in remote Central Australia, starting at school about 6.30am, before anyone else arrived. So I know I can do it if I have to. But it is so hard to stop what I am doing at night!

  1. I think I will have to go with what my body clock tells me and do what I normally do – go to bed around midnight and awake about 8 or 9am.

If you could choose between Wisdom and Luck, which one would you pick?

If you rely on Luck, you put yourself in the hands of blind Fate. However, if you have Wisdom, you can more or less make your own luck. I would rather have the wisdom.

If you were given the opportunity for free skydiving lessons would you take them? Why or why not?Sky-diving

Most probably not. I like to be in control of my life as much as possible. Skydiving is a great example of loss of control. It might be good for me but I would say thanks, but no thanks!

Is the glass half empty or half full? What is in the glass?

It depends what mood I am in. If I am very depressed, it is hard to see the glass at all. If I am a little depressed, I can usually persuade myself that the glass is half full. If I am in a positive mood, then the glass is usually running over.

What is in the glass? Love, friendship, good will, gratitude, empathy, happiness.

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

Last week: I am grateful to have had several days in which to finally chill out, after several months with a lot of activity, travel and responsibility.

This week: I am looking forward to planting more Australian native trees. Several lovely trees next door to us were cut down today (Monday), and my husband and I want to plant a tree to replace each of those we see cut down in our neighbourhood. Trouble is, we can’t keep up with them all! L But we do our best on our own little patch of ground.

(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

Keeping a Journal 3: Why Would You?

August 6, 2014 at 9:20 pm | Posted in Culture, Experiences, Mental Health, Philosophy, Writing, Writing and Life | 6 Comments
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journal

My entries in this series on keeping a journal so far are: What Is A Journal? and My Journal.
What I’d like to consider now is the question, ‘why would you keep a journal?”

Many folk have no inclination at all to keep a journal. They either see no value in it for themselves, or they dislike writing down their thoughts, perhaps for others to see. I thought I would do an internet search on not keeping a journal.

After the first ten pages of entries, I gave up. Every site that came up in those ten pages was on articles that advised people to keep a journal, the benefits of keeping a journal, the types of journals you can keep, and how to go about keeping a journal. There were none about why not to keep one.

Famous Folks Montage why journal

Because there are lots of articles and blog posts that talk about why it is a good idea to keep a journal, I thought I would go through a dozen or so of them and compile a summary of the reasons so many people feel this is a good thing to do.

Here are the top twenty reasons that most writers agree upon (not necessarily in order) that anyone should keep a journal.

10-reasons-to-keep-a-fitness-journal

To Help You Remember: Most people cannot remember what they did or where they were on a particular day. They cannot bring to mind names and places from the past. However, if they have written it down somewhere accessible, like a journal, reading what they wrote many years before can bring an event alive again.

Stress Release: Writing down your gripes and grievances can get them out of your system in a way that doesn’t involve putting others offside.

Clarify Your Thinking: writing provides a method of working through issues that is open and free from the criticisms of others.

Gain Insight Into Yourself: to know yourself; what makes you tick; what you like and dislike; what presses your buttons;

clare-josa-10-reasos-gratitude-journal

Solve Problems More Effectively: Writing down the pros and cons of an issue, or writing down possible solutions, can lead you to a solution more easily and effectively than simply stewing over it.

Give Direction and Focus: Keeping a journal is a good way to work out what your goals are – both short and long term.

Keep You On Track; Provide Encouragement: Once you have identified your direction and goals, you can keep a record of how you are going at attaining them, or how you may need to change either your direction or your methods.

Create a Writing Habit: Writers, especially, can gain benefit from simply writing every day, or at least regularly. This habit can be extended to your creative writing, giving you discipline you may not otherwise have developed. Writing regularly will also improve the quality of your writing, and help you refine your writing voice.

Writing in a journal

Safe Environment: Journal writing is a judgement-free zone. You can be just who you are and write about the things that are important to you. You do not have to worry about anyone saying : “Yes, but…”, or “What a stupid idea!” You can even write nonsense if you like.

Write About our Life: You can jot down what happens in your day-to-day life, even though it may seem trivial at the time. They may eventually become something more than you expected. You come back to these jottings at any time – to see what has changed, how and how it has changed or not. You can use your journal as a basis for stories – memoir, family history, social history.

from-journal-to-memoir

Enhance Your Creativity: A journal is the perfect place to free-write. Through free-writing, you often come up with ideas and inspiration that your more regimented or stressed self would have blocked off. Those ideas can then incubate and become something wonderful.

Find Your Strengths and Weaknesses, Your Skills and Resources: By doing things, you find out what you can do. By pushing your limits, you can see what you are capable of doing that you hadn’t realised. Your journal helps you to clarify these strengths – or weaknesses.

12 benefits of journaling

Mental Health Benefits: Writing about the things that worry you, or working through your decisions on paper can apparently have positive effects on your health by reducing the physical effects of stress on your body. Journaling can also help you to face your fears and to work out ways of facing them.

Encourages Positive Thinking: You can keep a Gratitude Journal that will help you focus on the positives in your life.

Journaling Through Divorce

Source Material: As well as being material for use in life writing, your journal can be a great source of material for your other writing: poetry; short stories; characters; plots; themes; etc.

Record Your Dreams: Your journal can record your literal dreams and/or your life’s hopes and dreams.

Philosophising: In a journal, you can bring up any topic, question or dilemma that comes to you. Then you can write about it – either just your own thoughts, or the thoughts of others after doing research.

7-reasons-to-keep-a-dream-journal4

A Practical Resource: If you keep a work or professional journal, you can record information that may be useful or relevant to you in the future. It is an investment in your professional development.

Spiritual Journey: You can keep a journal specific to your own spiritual journey, working through your doubts, identifying your beliefs and recording those quotes or readings that have helped you along the way.

Track Specific Aspects of Your Life: There are many kinds of journal you can keep. I have seen over twenty types listed in various places. These can help you to keep tabs on specific activities. Some of these might be inspiration, diet and exercise, gratitude, writing, memories, arts and crafts – painting, photography, drawing, scrapbooking, cooking, etc.

writing journal

Do you keep a journal? How does it help you?

© Linda Visman

Y is for Yearning

April 29, 2014 at 1:03 pm | Posted in Experiences, Family History, Mental Health, Philosophy, Ways of Living | 10 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

 

 

I yearn for mountains

Yearning: noun: an intense or overpowering longing, desire, or need; craving (Collins English Dictionary)

 

I think we all, at times, yearn for something – a person, a place, a possession, a better life, more of something, to change the world. What we yearn for might be, or seem to be completely unrealistic, unattainable, or it may be something that just might be possible, given the right circumstances.

 

I have a dream

 

It is what we do with that yearning, I believe, that demonstrates to a large extent who and what we are.

One person has a desire for something and sets out to get it. He works towards it with all of his energy until he creates the right circumstances for the achievement of his desire.

My father was a man like this. Throughout his life, he strove to overcome the things that held him back from what he wanted. He yearned for a life free from the restrictions of the English social class system, for a land where there was freedom and opportunity. He tried for seven years before his application to emigrate to Australia was approved. He didn’t give up his dream, but did whatever he could to create the circumstances for it to happen.

 

Yearning -progress

 

Another person might think he yearns for something, but doesn’t put in a great deal of effort to attain it. He waits until things come together to make it happen, for something to “turn up”. That happens rarely of course, and one has to question the strength of a desire that is not worked towards. It to be appears to be more like “I’ll take it if it comes along, but I can’t be bothered to put in the effort myself”. It’s an airy wish, not a real desire.

Then there is the one whose yearnings for something or somewhere else is strong, but they can see no way for it to happen. He becomes discouraged, yet still dwells in that impossibility want, unable to see the possibilities in the life he could be leading in the present. He yearns for a past or a place where he believed he was once happy. That is nostalgia. It is unreality.

 

Nostalgia

 

That was my mother, especially when things weren’t going well in life – financially, health-wise, or when undergoing some other difficulty. Her yearning was to go back to the place where she was born and grew up; where she’d met my father and where her first four children were also born. But financially it always seemed impossible.

In the mid-1970s, my father received an unexpected bequest from a deceased aunt. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to allow them to go back to Oswaldtwistle. They took a six-week holiday and travelled through Lancashire and Yorkshire as well. When the train from London arrived at Oswaldtwistle station and they got out, Mum looked around. She saw the dank, black-sooted stone buildings, the drizzle and the grey skies, and turned to Dad. “I want to go back home,” she said.

 

You can't go back

 

Returning after twenty years, she’d discovered it was not the place she remembered. Distance had sentimentalised the place and made it rosy. She only then realised how different and how much better was the clean, bright and sunny place they lived in Australia to this dreary and closed-in place she has focussed so much of her energy on. Her constant yearning had been completely misplaced.

 

There is no past we can bring back by longing for it. There is only an eternally new now that builds and creates itself out of the best as the past withdraws.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

My life-long yearning to write was impossible until I simply began to write. Now I am doing what I always wanted to do.

Yearning has both positive and negative aspects to it. We are much better off if we work towards our dreams of a better future, whatever we see it to be. To yearn for something in the past, something that is impossible to have, will often taint the present and destroy the future.

 

make a new beginning

 

Have you ever felt a yearning for something, to be someone or something else? How have you responded to it?

 

© Linda Visman  29.04.2014  (698 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]

 

FAVORITESSAYINGSOFFAMILYANDFRIENDS

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)

 

P is for Poacher

April 18, 2014 at 9:21 am | Posted in Family History, History, Philosophy, Society, Ways of Living | 9 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

 

poached-eggs

No, not that poacher. The one I’m talking about isn’t a gadget that cooks eggs.

I mean real poachers, the people who nick (pinch, steal) animals that don’t technically belong to them.

But I don’t mean poachers who take endangered wildlife, kill them and cut off their horns or tusks, and leave their bodies to rot either. Nothing like that!

The poacher I am talking about is the one who takes animals that are abundant, like rabbits and hares, pheasants and partridge from the estates of a wealthy landholder in early 20th century England.

poacher

My grandfather, Teddy Thompson, was a poacher, and a very good one. He knew the countryside – the woods and the moors – and the animals and plants that lived there better than most people.

He netted rabbits and hare, and snared or shot the birds. He made his own nets and was a champion clay-bird shooter. Throughout the Great Depression he fed his own family – and others too – when they would otherwise have been in dire straits. He kept the larder stocked and he didn’t get caught.

ER Thompson, Ern,Eddie,Edna

Teddy kneels behind his daughter. My dad is the eldest son, on the right.

Legally, he was breaking the law. Morally, he considered what he did justified. The wealthy landowner didn’t hunt these animals for food – only for sport. Also, the notion of privilege that the game laws embodied was abhorrent to him. The wealthy didn’t need a permit to net or shoot rabbits, whereas the lower classes had to purchase a licence, and at a significant cost, given their meagre income. They also had strict limits on where and how many they caught.  Teddy considered it wrong that people should have special rank and privileges just because of the station they were born into.

Dad told me many stories about what Teddy did. Among them are a couple I will share.

He used to catch pheasant and partridge and sell them to well-off  and eager businessmen in the town. Sometimes, the man would pay in cash, which helped pay the rent. At other times, Granddad would ask if the fellow had meccano or electrical stuff his son might no longer need. Dad always had plenty of parts to make crystal radios, which he then sold. He also made things for his parents, as well as his younger brother and sisters.

One time, a farmer asked Teddy if he would catch some rabbits to put in his fields for his son to shoot. Teddy netted the twenty animals the farmer had requested, and went to collect the money he’d been promised. But the farmer reneged on the promise. That night, Teddy went back to the farm, caught the twenty rabbits again and set them free elsewhere.

Edward&EdwardR Thompson &dog Abt 1946 (2)

Granddad may not have been law-abiding in some ways, but he was a very moral man. He was willing to go against laws or customs that he saw as unfair. My father also learned to hate the injustices of the class system that he grew up in, and always admired and respected his father for standing up against them.

One example where this is evident was at the interview Dad had on completion of his flying training. This interview was in front of about five senior officers “all showing off their medals and gold braid”, and would determine the rank that each man would be given before being assigned to a squadron.

Dad said the interview went well, as he’d gained high marks and shown a lot of talent as a fighter pilot. Indeed, he was at the top level of the group that was passing out, and had better results than most of the upper class men – those who would automatically be given an officer’s commission.

RAF pilot wings

The last question of Dad’s interview came from the biggest brass at the end of the row. “What does your father do for a living?”

Dad was incensed that what his father did would have any bearing on the rank he would be given. Teddy was a fire beater (stoker) of a steam engine in a cotton mill, but that isn’t what Dad answered.

“He’s a poacher, Sir”.

Dad didn’t receive an officer’s commission. He was given non-commissioned rank instead.

What do you think of traditional social divisions? Is it morally right to prevent someone from feeding his family just because he comes from a lower level of society?

 

© Linda Visman 18.04.14  (715 words)

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