Old Jack

August 15, 2018 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Australia, History, War and Conflict, Writing and Life | 16 Comments
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Over eleven years ago, I wrote the story of what happened when I almost met Jack. I had forgotten about it until I was just exploring some of my writing folders. Now I think it is time to publish it, in honour of that old man I almost met.

 *     *     *

 

I first heard about old Jack from my next-door-neighbour, Eileen. It was an early February evening (2007), and we were out on our respective front verandahs, chatting across the fence about the day.

 

“I went to visit old Jack today. You write, don’t you, Linda? You’d probably find Jack interesting. He wrote poetry when he was a Japanese prisoner of war, and he tells some fantastic stories. He’s ninety-nine, and he’s still got all his marbles. He’d like to be involved with a writers’ group. Do you belong to one?”

 

“Yes, in Toronto. What’s his name again?”

 

“Jack. Jack Mudie. He turns a hundred next month. He’s a lovely fellow. Still lives at home. Got plenty of spirit too, even though he’s blind. I went with Vicky – that’s his carer – to see him before I leave. I want to let all the clients know I’m going. Not just walk out on them. The new people don’t care, but I do.”

 

Eileen had resigned her job as Regional Director of what had been a local community aged care programme. It had been taken over by a large interstate organization six months previously. Despite promises to the contrary, staff workloads had increased, while wages and conditions were gradually being eroded. The emphasis was now on profits, rather than on serving their elderly clients. Eileen had had enough.

 

“Old Jack, he wrote a diary too. When he was a prisoner of war.”

 

“A diary? Wow, that’s wonderful. Has he done anything with it? Has it been published?”

 

“No. He wants to. There’s nobody to write it out for him.”

 

“How come? You’d think there’d be lots of people interested in transcribing a POW diary.”

 

“His family don’t know much about it. But Jack did go to the War Memorial or the Archives or somewhere in Canberra and ask if they could get someone to transcribe it for him. They told him it could be done, but it’d cost him thirty thousand dollars.”

 

“You’re joking! Thirty thousand to transcribe a war-time journal?”

 

“Yeah. They said that’s what it’d cost. Awful eh?”

 

“Sure is. I suppose there are quite a few diaries around now and they’re not so scarce as they were. And they’d have to employ someone to do it. Still, I can’t understand why they couldn’t do it for nothing. It’s part of the country’s history.”

 

“Yeah. The family haven’t done anything about it. Don’t know why. But Jack would still like someone to do it. They just don’t know who. Or how.”

 

“I’ll do it!”

 

“Would you?”

 

“Sure would! I’d hate to see all that lost!”

 

“Apparently, it’s written in really tiny writing. He didn’t have much to write on. And he had to keep it hidden, of course.”

 

“Yes. He’d have been killed if it was found. A brave man, by the sound of it. I’d love to meet Jack and see if he’d like me to transcribe his diary.”

 

“All right. I’ll ring Vicky, his carer, and let her know. She’ll talk with Jack and see what he thinks. I’ll take you to see him, probably in the next week or two. I’m having a couple of weeks’ holiday before I start my new job.”

 

“Great! I’ll see if he wants me to take him to the Writers’ Group too.”

 

Eileen couldn’t take me to Jack’s place in the next two weeks, so she gave me Vicky’s mobile phone number, so I could arrange with her about going to meet Jack. Eileen said to call Vicky at about ten o’clock on Monday morning, as that’s when she was at Jack’s place.

 

I was really excited about meeting Jack. A little apprehensive too, because he would be entrusting me with something very precious. Would I be able to do him and his diary the justice they deserved? During the time I had to wait before ringing Vicky to organise the meeting, I decided to see if I could find out anything about Jack. I did a Google search on his name and got several hits. The Hunter Military History website briefly mentioned that Jack “survived three brutal years as a prisoner of war in Japan“ (I couldn’t find the actual Forum entry). I also discovered that Jack had been awarded an OAM (Order of Australia Medal). “Mr. Jack Mudie was conferred OAM for service to furthering relations between Australia and Japan through the development of the Prisoner of War Memorial” (Website of Volunteers for International Exchange).

 

Australian soldiers after their release from Japanese captivity in Singapore, 1945

Australian soldiers after their release from Japanese captivity in Singapore, 1945

 

A “Catholic Weekly” story “To forgive is not to forget”, told of a 1991 Anzac Eve reconciliation service at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. The centrepiece of the service related to the “comfort women” who were enslaved by the Japanese during the war to serve their soldiers. One former comfort woman was there to accept the apology of “the ordinary Japanese people” through a Japanese Catholic film director. Tom Uren, former Labor Minister, also spoke of his experiences as a POW of the Japanese and how much he’d hated them. Then, when he was sent to Japan, still as a POW, to work alongside the ordinary Japanese people, he realised they were as much victims as he was. The story records “Jack Mudie, also a Japanese POW”, as having attended the reconciliation service. It seemed to me that Jack’s involvement with reconciliation, after his wartime experiences, showed him to be quite a remarkable man. This made me even more keen to learn more about him.

 

Other websites mentioned Jack’s visits to Japan, and visits of Japanese people to his home. They told of his POW poems, some of which (nineteen, I think) have been translated into Japanese and published as a book, “And Gumtrees Nodding Under Azure Skies” Other references to Jack’s poetry mentioned that Lt. Jack Mudie was at the Naoetsu P.O.W. Camp in Japan from 1942-1945.

 

There was a further reference to Jack in the English Speaking Union of Japan’s Newsletter No.31, October, 2001:

“Mr. Muramatsu …  talked about his reunion, after over a year, with Mr. Jack Mudie, who as a young lieutenant of the Australian army, spent much of his time during the Pacific War in a POW camp in Naoetsu, Japan. One of many poems he wrote during the internment was read by him. It was a moving poem about the hard-working Japanese women there, filled with his kind words and full of humor and warmth despite the adverse circumstances.”

Another site, relating to war books, gives details of Jack’s poetry book.

As I discovered more about Jack’s background, it became more important to me that I meet him and transcribe his wartime POW diary. I went with my husband, Dirk, to buy a small second-hand laptop computer that I could use. We also found a cheap scanner at the market. I wanted to be able to scan the diary at Jack’s place if necessary, so that he wouldn’t need to let it out of his possession. Scanning and enlarging it might make it easier to read too. I re-checked our tape recorder and microphone, and bought some new audio tapes. If Jack wanted to talk, and was happy to be recorded, I’d be ready. Both Dirk and I, and Eileen too, were really excited about the project.

 

At ten o’clock on the last Monday in February, I called Vicky’s mobile number. When she answered, I explained who I was.

 

“How’s Jack?”

 

“Oh Linda, I’m afraid I’ve just called the ambulance for Jack. He’s not very well at all. They should be here soon.”

 

“Oh, no. I hope he’s going to be all right.”

 

“I don’t know yet. Can you call me back, in about half an hour or so?”

 

“Yes, I will. Thank you.”

 

I waited anxiously during the half-hour Vicky had requested. When I called back, Vicky said Jack had gone to the hospital. She didn’t know how he’d be. I hoped he’d come through all right.

 

“I was so looking forward to meeting him today.”

 

“Yes. He was really looking forward to meeting you too. Look, can you call me again next Monday? I’m here every Monday. We can organise something then.”

 

When I saw Eileen a couple of days later, I told her Jack had been taken to hospital on the very day I’d called. She was upbeat about it.

 

“Don’t worry. He’s tough. They usually just get taken in for a couple of days to rest and get their strength back and then are home again as good as ever.”

 

So I waited again. Eileen was due to start her new job on Monday, the day I was to call Vicky. I asked her on the Saturday if she’d heard anything about Jack. She hadn’t.

 

On the Monday (March 5th) I called Vicky’s mobile number. It rang for a long time. There was no answer. Maybe she had the vacuum cleaner going and hadn’t heard it. Jack’s hearing wasn’t too good, Eileen had told me, so he probably wouldn’t have heard the phone either. Fifteen minutes later, I called again. This time Vicky answered.

 

“Vicky, this is Linda. I’m calling about Jack. How is he?”

 

There was a few seconds’ silence at the other end.

 

“I’m sorry. Jack died last Monday.”

 

Oh, no! Tears burned in my eyes.

 

“The funeral was last Friday. I didn’t have a number to call you.”

 

“Oh, I’m so sorry! You must be very upset.”

 

“Yes. I was close to Jack. He was a wonderful man. Look, I really don’t know what will happen about his diary, but Jack has a lovely family. I’ll be in contact with them again in a couple of months.”

 

“When everything’s settled, will you tell them, if they want to have Jack’s diary transcribed, I’ll help in any way I can?”

 

Vicky said she would. I gave her my home phone number, so she can call me if anything eventuates, and said goodbye. I went to tell Dirk, tears in my eyes. He hugged me. I felt like I’d just started to get to know Jack. All week, while I’d been thinking about him, he’d already been gone. Now, he was a friend I would never meet.

Linda Visman, 6th March 2007

………………………………………………………………………………………

Post Script:

After I’d written the foregoing story, I subscribed to the “Newcastle Herald” website service, so that I could purchase past articles from the newspaper. I searched for any references to Jack Mudie, and, among other, irrelevant items, I found two short articles from 2006. There are probably other, earlier stories in their regular archives too.

 

Those two articles however, were enough to give me an even better picture of Jack Mudie than I already had. Here are some extracts from those articles:

1. Author: ANITA BEAUMONT   Date: 06/09/2006

JACK Mudie remembers the barbed-wire fences, the cruelty and the starvation suffered at Changi prisons in Japan during World War II all too well.

The former lieutenant and Coal Point resident, 99, was one of 21,700 soldiers captured in the Malayan area in the war. Of those, about 7500 died.

Mr Mudie fought against the Japanese Army in Malaya and Singapore, and spent 2 1/2 years in one of their camps in Naoetsu, Japan.

“I saw and experienced a lot of cruelty and starvation. I came back a physical wreck,” Mr Mudie said.

“On one occasion a few of us were pulled out of the sleeping quarters to provide entertainment for the Japanese soldiers. We had to crawl around like dogs while getting belted along until we collapsed . . . I lost about three kilograms that night.”

He wrote poetry as a distraction from the conditions.

He also kept a detailed diary that was later used as evidence against eight Japanese soldiers indicted for the death of 60 soldiers

2. Author: IAN KIRKWOOD   Date: 14/08/2006

Jack Mudie survived three brutal years as a prisoner of war in Japan, but his saddest memory is returning to Australian soil.

“I was standing on the wharf and all around me were these people hugging and kissing, being reunited with their families,” Mr Mudie recalled yesterday.

A lone friend on the wharf had to tell him his parents had died while he was away. Their house had been sold. His possessions had been given to charity, a “fair bit” of money in the bank had been frittered away. He had been given up for dead.

Mr Mudie, who enlisted as “an old man of 32”, was captured in late 1941.

The retired primary school principal says he has made his peace with the Japanese people, but “not their soldiers or their military”.

He says there is “no room for hatred” in his heart, at least partly because his eldest child, Lynette, now lives in Japan with her Japanese husband, Kenji Kise.

 

Additional note, 15th August 2018:

I never did hear from Jack’s family, which saddened me. I don’t know if his diary was ever transcribed as I can find nothing about it online.

 

References for original story:

Website of Volunteers for International Exchanges:

http://www.max.hi-ho.ne.jp/yoshi-ko/indexe.htm

 

ESUJ Newsletter Oct. 2001:

http://www.esuj.gr.jp/news/eng/archives/0031.htm

 

The Catholic Weekly May 13 2001 story: http://www.catholicweekly.com.au/01/may/13/story_13.html

 

Jack’s Book of Poetry:

Author: Mudie, Jack

Title: Aozora no shita de yureru Ukari no ki ni = And gum-trees nodding under azure skies : nineteen poems made by Lt. Jack Mudie at the Naoetsu P.O.W. Camp, 1942-1945

Publisher: Joetsu-City, Japan. Hiromu Jagi

Year: 1999

Notes: In Japanese and English. Translated by Hiromu Yagi.

 

 

 

 

 

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Politics of Immigration

June 26, 2018 at 5:14 pm | Posted in Australia, discrimination, Immigration, Politics, War and Conflict | 34 Comments
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I am loth to write about political situations but, following the example of another writer-blogger,  I have finally gotten up the courage to speak out.

There is a lot of emotion being generated around the world by the Trump administration’s treatment of so-called illegal migrants in the U.S, especially the separation of children from their parents. These emotions – horror, disbelief, deep sympathy and compassion for the trauma these children are suffering – are well-founded and justified. What is being done there is appalling.

What many people don’t see, because it is hidden as much as possible by the govt here in Australia, is an equally appalling situation. This is what is being done to seekers of refuge who came to this country by boat. To seek asylum in another country is perfectly legal, and yet we have our govt happily locking up refugee kids (albeit with their parent/s) in prison camps on Manus Island in P-NG and on Nauru in the Pacific in terrible conditions. Most of these refugees, kids included, have been incarcerated for several years – up to 5 years at present.

Refugee Children On Nauru

Refugee children on Nauru

The men, women & children, having already been traumatised by the life they fled, are in a bad way – physically, mentally and emotionally. They are treated appallingly – not given decent treatment for illnesses, injuries childbirth issues, and psychiatric problems associated with their incarceration. Several have died because of that lack of treatment. Others have taken their own lives because they cannot cope any longer with the conditions, the brutality of the system and its administrators, their demonisation by the govt, their lack of hope and uncertainty about the future.

Both our major political parties – the Coalition Liberal-Nationals in government and Labor in Opposition – are happy to stir up fear and hatred of refugees within the populace in order to create and conduct a disgraceful policy of deterrence. They say it will prevent more “boat people” from seeking asylum. They say it’s a matter of national security, but any thinking person knows it is simply to shore up the support of fearful, unsympathetic and uncaring voters.

Manus refugees

Refugee men on Manus Island

I hate to think what the outcomes of their treatment will be for those refugees when they are finally freed – what they will have to come to terms with and what they will have to overcome to be capable of living again in society. How much these refugees could have contributed to Australian society if they had been allowed to stay, we will never know. Instead, their lives have become a political football, and they may never know the peace they yearn for.

It seems that extreme right wing policies are having their day in many parts of the world. I just hope that the indignation & horror of good people– along with their raised voices and action – will turn the tide. I hope we can get back to what made Australia known for its friendliness and mateship. But I am afraid it will be a difficult road to return to.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” – Hebrews 13:2

Thursday’s Child – Introducing my Main Character

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

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

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

This is what Tori writes:

*         *         *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

What does the future hold?

September 22, 2016 at 8:16 pm | Posted in Australia, divisions in society, family responsibilities, Health, heritage, History, Mental Health, Politics, Religion, Social mores, Social Responsibility, Society, War and Conflict, Ways of Living | 10 Comments

 

I sat down tonight and just began to write. This is what came from my pecking at the keyboard:

 

All the news on the TV is bad. Nothing is positive. All we have is hatred, violence, intolerance, war and war-mongering, people being treated as cannon fodder. It is not a good world to live in – apart from local communities which support and nurture their residents.

 

One always must come down to the place where you live, where your family belong. Here in Australia, we have a reasonable lifestyle, though it is gradually and by stealth becoming more difficult for the ordinary person to make ends meet.

 

In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, it seems we had a golden age, though things began to change in the 1980s. There was a decent level of employment, and when one talked about employment, it related to full time positions, not to those who work only a couple of hours a week so the government can ‘cook the books’ to make itself look better. The government wasn’t working too hard to transfer financial benefits from the less well-off to the rich. We actually welcomed refugees and gave them a safe place to make their home. After Vietnam, we were not a part of any major violence in other countries. We were trying to preserve our environment and even make it better.

 

We raised our children to be tolerant and considerate of others. In Australia, education was free and available to all who wanted to improve themselves, whether through the university system or through trades with the TAFE system. We actually believed that money flows from the people upwards, to the owners of industry – who even had socially progressive policies. And so did governments, who realised it was financially better to support the poor and benefit from the taxes they paid than to demonise them.

 

But now, everything is focused on money, on the financial gains that can be made from those who have the least. A social conscience is seen as a weakness rather than a strength. The focus is on  so-called ‘trickle-down economics, where all the wealth goes to the rich but does not, in practice, benefit anyone on the lower economic scale.

 

Education, health, income support, in fact any formerly government-run social enterprise, is being privatised to companies only interested in making money, not in improving the lives of their clients. The environment upon which we rely has become the resource, with destructive mining practices instead of conservation.

 

Refugees are seen as a threat, rather than as people in need of assistance. Their presence is regarded as a negative that will destroy our society. But we have, through history, seen the great benefits brought to many nations through new blood, new ideas, new ways of thinking, and from the efforts of entrepreneurs who are happy to be safe to pursue their ideas and to develop new ways of doing things that benefit all of society.

 

The poor are seen as bludgers on the common purse. They are treated as if they have nothing to offer. But so many of them have, in the past, brought freshness and enthusiasm to the workplace when they have been given the chance to work. Now, however, they are relegated to a cycle of poverty from which there is little chance of escape.

 

The selfish and heartless policies of too many modern government have led to intolerance of those who are different, to violence against a society that has become indifferent to their frustration, to hatred of the unknown. Here in my country, they have resulted in the loss of the tradition of a fair go that so many Aussies prided themselves upon. Now, the mantra is, ‘if you don’t do what we say, then get out!’

 

I despair at our modern world. Our hopes for a brighter future for all have been shot to pieces. I see that my grandchildren will have to fight for the human rights we once took for granted – unless they become brainwashed by narcissistic and power-hungry leaders to believe they deserve to be the dregs of society. Dregs who are not entitled to the benefits the rich accrue unto themselves.

 

I wish I could be more positive. I know things go in cycles – what was once seen as normal becomes abnormal, what was once a moral value becomes something to avoid, what was once ‘good’ becomes ‘bad’, and vice versa. I hope that what is now negative changes to become positive.

 

So, I hope that my grandchildren will not become that which is acceptable today. That, at least in their local communities, something will happen to show them it is better for them to respect others, to help those less fortunate, to bring out the best in people rather than the worst, and to strive for a world that sees real justice for all instead of the false and negative world we see today.

 

What do you think of the world today? Do you have concerns for the present and the future?

 

(c) Linda Visman

Anzac Day 2016 in Wangi Wangi

April 25, 2016 at 4:47 pm | Posted in Australia, History, Reflections, Society, Special Occasions, War and Conflict | 14 Comments
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ANZAC means Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

As we do every year, today we celebrate Anzac Day here in Australia and in New Zealand.

The landing by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula on 25 April 1915 was Australia’s first major action of the Great War. These soldiers quickly became known as Anzacs, and the pride they took in that name endures to this day.

When they landed they faced fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated from the peninsula, with both sides having suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. More than 8,000 Australian soldiers died in the campaign.

Gallipoli had a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25 April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who died in the war.

I have written before on Anzac Day – herehere and here.  And Here is more background.

Here in Wangi Wangi, NSW, there was a dawn service. At 10 o’clock we had a parade down Wangi’s main street, consisting of past and current servicemen and women, school children, and members of various public services and voluntary organisations. The R.A.A.F. provided the armed service contingent this year.

The large and growing contingent of vintage army vehicles is a always popular drawcard for everyone. It ended at the memorial in front of the RSL (Returned Services League) Club, where a half hour ceremony was conducted.

We also had a flypast by three BAe Hawk fighter jets from the RAAF base at Williamtown, Newcastle.

I took photos of the parade and the later display of vehicles, but I could only get one partial shot of the people conducting the ceremony as I wasn’t tall enough to see over those in front of me. Here are some of the highlights of the morning.

01 Hardware sign

02 RAAF lead parade

03 salute

04 K9 unit

05 Wangi school

06 Full tracks

07 Jeeps

08 Ambulances

09 Old blitz trucks

10 Half-track truck

11 Crowd heads to the ceremony area

12 Ceremony blocked by crowd

13 Part of vehicle display

14 Looking to lake

15 Looking from jetty

16 Flags

 

Lest we forget

 

I have heard people who are quite opposed in their views about occasions such as ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day and others. Do you think they really commemorate those who served and suffered for a righteous cause? Or are these occasions really glorifications of nationalistic pride?  I would be interested if you could share your views.

 

(c) Linda Visman,  25th April 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Old Year Ends – a look back at 2015

December 28, 2015 at 2:00 am | Posted in Australia, Making History, Migration, Politics, Psychology, Religion, Social Responsibility, Society, War and Conflict | 8 Comments
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2015 Behind the News ABC

Apart from my lovely family and friends, I must admit that I have not enjoyed 2015. Not on the state, national or international level. There hasn’t been very much to enjoy in the world of politics, religion, economics, international relations, terrorism, whatever.

With one of the defining images of the year being the body of a little refugee boy washed up on a beach, how could it have been a good year for anyone who looks beyond their own safe little bubble? I for one wouldn’t mind having another go at it to see if we could somehow change how it all went. Failing that, is the hope that last year was as bad as it will get.

TOPSHOTS Kurdish Syrian girls are pictur

Children among the destruction in Syria

I started to write a list of the nasties that happened through the year:

  • the terrorism in the name of religion that is not a religion;

  • the racism and violence in many countries across the globe;

  • the lack of support in many instances for the millions of people displaced by war;

  • the ineptitude, idiocy or corruption in too many governments in too many countries;

  • the failure to address global warming on a global scale;

  • the brain-dead far right-wingers who would prefer the whole world to collapse rather than help those less fortunate than themselves;

  • the destruction of our valuable, even precious, environments and wildlife, to feed the greed of multi-national corporations;

  • the extremes of weather – excessive cold and heat, floods, droughts, huge wildfires, hurricanes, typhoons and tornadoes, the melting of the polar ice caps;

  • the extreme polarisation in politics, race and religion, and the fear-mongering among our so-called leaders;

  • the overwhelming power of the arms industry, the far right press, and corporations in deciding national and international government policy.

Need I go on?

Of course there were good things happening too:

  • the rise of people power through social media, demonstrations and actions to show their displeasure at where the world is heading;

  • the rise of a pope who, against those Catholic extremists who would prevent him, speaks for the people, the environment, and the cessation of war;

  • the countries like Germany who have taken in tens of thousands of refugees;

  • the individuals who stand up for right when they see wrong.

not-in-my-name

We need the good so much, but it is demonstrated by individuals and small groups in small and seemingly insignificant actions and interactions, whereas the bad is overwhelming in its ability to create a sense of despair, depression and hopelessness.

However, I must concentrate on those small things and the ordinary people like me who do them, and hope they will add up to more than the bad stuff and overcome it. I must do what I can for my own sanity, but even more for the sake of my grandchildren. I don’t want them to live in the kind of hateful world that seems to be all too possible right now.

I must cling to the hope that springs eternal from the human heart. If it didn’t, I would end it now. So I hope with all my heart that, through good people standing up to corruption and violence, hatred and destruction, at least some of the horrendous problems we’ve had in 2015 will get better in 2016.

(c) Linda Visman

 

 

A to Z Challenge – N is for Never-ending

April 16, 2015 at 12:05 am | Posted in A-Z Blogging Challenge 2015, Poetry, War and Conflict | 4 Comments

A2Z-BADGE [2015] - Life is Good

 

This is another poem I wrote for a contest. The poem had to be in Pi form. This comes from the mathematical value Pi, which equals 3.141592653589793. The poem thus had to have the number of words in each line correspond with each number in the Pi sequence, with the number of lines equal to the number of digits in the sequence.

Whilst the poem was written for a contest, the subject I have written of was already in my mind, and I had been searching for a form in which to express my thoughts on it. I decided to use the Pi form, and enter the contest too. Along the way, I came up with a potted history of war in the twentieth century and beyond.

Again I write of Man’s intractability, his inhumanity. A sign of the times! The last line says it all.

 

Never-ending War

– A Pi Poem

..

The Great War

Appalling –

Ending all wars forever?

Delusion –

Man’s intractability makes this impossible.

More wars erupt, in Russia, Spain, China, and elsewhere –

Lesson unlearned.

Then comes the Second World War:

Killing brought to the cities –

Bombing; death; destruction;

War no longer just soldiers.

Now, civilians, homes and livelihoods become valid targets.

Suffering, caused by a megalomaniac’s dream of world domination.

Cold War Bomb, Damocles’ sword, hangs suspended.

Korea, Vietnam, Middle East. Now Terror’s War rages worldwide.

Mankind never learns.

..

(c) Linda Visman

Making a Spectacle 1: History of Fireworks

September 11, 2014 at 8:10 pm | Posted in Culture, History, Religion, Society, Special Occasions, War and Conflict, Ways of Living | Leave a comment
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Clipart fireworks

Bamboo Bangs

Fireworks of a kind were used in China over 2,000 years ago, well before the discovery of gunpowder.
These early ‘fireworks’ consisted of green bamboo thrown onto a fire. As air pockets inside the bamboo heated, they exploded, creating a frightening noise. They were used to scare away bad spirits, and it became part of a ritual to scare away the evil spirit Nian at the start of each new year.
Gradually, the green bamboo bangs because part of other celebrations like births, weddings and coronations. They were used thus for the next thousand years.

Heating bamboo

Invention of Gunpowder

There are several references to a Chinese monk named Li Tian, who lived near the city of Liu Yang in Hunan Province, who is credited with the invention of firecrackers about 1,000 years ago. There are other stories of an accidental explosion when an alchemist was heating a mix of chemicals.
What is known however, is that somewhere between about 600 and 900AD, Chinese alchemists discovered a particular mixture of chemicals that ignited with a flash and a bang when heated over a fire. The records show that they were advised to shun this mixture of sulfur, saltpetre (potassium nitrate), honey and arsenic disulfide.
However, some alchemists continued to experiment with it.
They discovered that explosions resulted when the mixture was heated inside bamboo tubes, and that flames, smoke and sparks erupted when it was ignited in an open container. The more saltpetre added to the mix, the more violently it exploded.

Chinese soldier launches fire arrow

What we now call gunpowder became a useful as a military weapon around the 10th century, though initially it was only used to frighten and confuse the enemy. Later, it was it used also to inflict injury.
Bamboo was gradually replaced by thick paper tubes and fuses, made from gunpowder wrapped in long thin pieces of paper, were developed.
As well as for military applications, firecrackers continued to be used in China at important celebrations.

The main components of gunpowder and their ratios, developed over 500 years ago, are still the same as are used today:
1) Saltpetre 75%
2) Charcoal 15%
3) Sulphur 10%

Chinese wiring on black powder

Firecrackers go to Europe and Beyond

In its early years, the important part of exploding black powder was the light and sound that would scare off the spirits. Even when fireworks came to Europe and spread across the world, it wasn’t the colour that mattered. It is believed that Marco Polo brought firecrackers back to Europe from China in 1292. The Italians loved them. Three hundred years later, with the arrival of the Renaissance and the era of exploration and experiment, they developed a greater range of fireworks; especially skyrockets, fountains and spinning wheels.

The French and Italian Collections. Pen and ink drawing with watercolour wash from a treaty on fireworks. Late 16th century

The French and Italian Collections. Pen and ink drawing with watercolour wash from a treaty on fireworks. Late 16th century

These were refined and expanded over the years, and their use spread throughout Europe, where monarchs and other rulers used them (especially rockets) to demonstrate their power and majesty.
As exploration of the world proceeded during the 16th to the 18th centuries, the use of fireworks spread to new lands. Soon they had become a common element of major celebrations throughout the world.

Fireworks Become More Colourful

For almost 1000 years, the only colours in fireworks were orange and white (from black powder or metallic powder respectively).
By the 1830s however, knowledge of chemicals and their properties was greatly expanded. During that decade, fire masters in southern Italy were able to add reds, greens, blues and yellows by the addition of metallic salts and chlorinated powders. The discovery and use of electrical energy and hydrolysis meant that the chemicals could burn faster, hotter and brighter, and displays, especially aerial ones, became even more dramatic.
Fireworks can be classified broadly by whether they are used for ground or aerial display. Not until the last 200 years did the magical display of coloured sparks become the real focus of a fireworks show. Modern fireworks are also called pyrotechnics, and the experts who develop and stage them are known as pyro-technicians.

Fireworks

As well as science, there is and always has always been an art and craft to development and use of fireworks. Modern fireworks have a myriad of different effects depending on their chemical composition, strength and containment.

Fireworks on sale in a Chinese shop/

Fireworks on sale in a Chinese shop/

China is by far the largest producer and exporter of fireworks in the world. During the 20th century, the mechanics of mass production gradually brought their cost down considerably. Eventually, fireworks became cheap enough to be available to ordinary families, and they could be more personally involved in national, religious and cultural fireworks displays.

……………………………………………………..
Further reading
General history: http://www.pyrouniverse.com/history.htm
Use of fireworks by European monarchs: http://io9.com/the-first-fireworks-displays-were-terrifyingly-huge-1600541130
Depictions of fireworks in Europe from the 16th century: http://publicdomainreview.org/2014/06/25/picturing-pyrotechnics/

(c) Linda Visman

Reading: From Print to Digital

August 14, 2014 at 7:38 pm | Posted in Culture, Mental Health, Psychology, Reading, Society, War and Conflict | 11 Comments
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kindle-book-shelf

When I reached my sixties, I was reading lots of murder mysteries, forensic crime and dark thrillers, depending on my mood. I have read just about all of the books by Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell, and some of Sue Grafton’s alphabet crime series, a couple of Richard North Patterson, and lots of others. Raymond Khoury’s thriller, The Sign, was particularly good.

I have gone back to the past a few times and to more literary novels. A couple were Australian authors. I enjoyed Eleanor Dark’s Slow Dawning (written in the 1930s), and Ruth Park’s Playing Beattie Bow (written in the 1960s), as well as Park’s two-part memoir. I also read Ken Follett’s World Without End, set in the Middle Ages.

I even tried to read D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but I gave up on it about half way through. I did, however, relish the style and language of Paul Morgan’s The Pelagius Book. Then there are the novels of Tim Winton, Alex Miller and Khaleid Hosseini – wonderful writers!

Lady Chatterley

Now, well into my sixties, I read more post-apocalypse novels than I ever did, and even quite a bit of fantasy. I didn’t really get into those until the last few years, and I was wondering why recently. I decided that the state of society and the world these days – the violence, destruction, intolerance and hatred – have caused me to need an escape.

Destruction

The end of the world as we know it now seems to be a just outcome for those who have caused such pain and misery to so many innocent people. Unfortunately, many more innocent people would dies. However, post apocalypse times are when the resilient and resourceful have their chance to survive, even if it is against terrible odds. Perhaps it is a hope I have that the better aspects of mankind will finally prevail against the worst.

The same goes for fantasy. In other worlds, heroes – male and/or female – battle the evil forces that would destroy them. In the end there is victory for the good – even if it does come at the end of a series of three or four books!

LordofTheRings

I loved JRR Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy and even watched the movies – which I thought extremely well done (and I am not a movie-goer). I have tried Stephen King again and got through Under the Dome and The Stand. I have the complete Harry Potter books in a boxed set (I haven’t seen the movies though), and have found several good fantasy authors on Amazon Kindle. There are lots of fantasy series out there which are quite well written, as well as being great stories.

Two series by Edward W. Robinson – The Breakers and The Cycle of Arawn are good. The Muirwood series by Jeff Wheeler really got me in, as did Aaron Pogue’s trilogy, The Dragonprince’s Legacy. I also really enjoyed Michael G. Manning’s Mageborn series. I recently read Jason Mott’s The Returned, which, I believe was made into a telemovie. All of these I obtained as e-books.

MuirwoodTrilogy

My Kindle has led me into a whole new range and variety of reading. E-books are cheaper than print, and because of that, I have been able to sample a whole new range of authors and genres. Either I would never have come across these in print, or the price would have put me off.

kindle_look_insideYes, there is a lot of rubbish out there, but if you check the synopsis, reviews, and the success of the author, you can usually tell which will be of a reasonable standard. And if you can read a sample, you will get a good idea of the quality of the writing.

Some of the new authors I have come across through accessing e-books on my Kindle, apart from those I have already mentioned, include:
Fantasy & Post-apocalypse: Anna Elliott, Robert Clive Parnell, Peg Brantley, Erica Liodice, Julie Morrigan, Lori Brighton, R.T. Kaelin, M.R. Mathias, Jodi McIsaac, Erica Stevens, Katie W. Stewart, Kevin Bohacz.
Thrillers: Michael R. Hicks, Robert Ellis, Barry Friedman, Tom Lowe.

Lee Goldberg The Walk

Whodunits & Murder Mysteries: Kathleen Backus, Jeffrey Siger, Camilla Chafer, L.L. Bartlett, Debra Mares, Andy Straker, Lee Goldberg, Terri Reid, James Hankins, T.R.Ragan, Edie Claire.
Real life novels: Melissa F. Miller, Othello Back, Helen Ginger.
Young Adult: Aida Brassington.
Writing: Chris Thrall.
Memoir: Joy deKok, Cynthia Harrison
Of course, I have come across a lot more than these, but I decided just to share the ones I liked best.

Kindle

My Kindle goes with me whenever I travel. That is another of its great advantages. I can carry a hundred books in the space and weight it would take for only one slim printed volume. However, I will never give up on printed books. If you saw our bookshelves you would see that! There is something about them that is more evocative of worlds and more personal than an e-reader can ever be.

Talking about Books

Have you made the transition from print to electronic books? Do you use both, or do you stick mainly with one medium?

© Linda Visman

Picnic Table

June 14, 2014 at 3:14 pm | Posted in Mental Health, Society, War and Conflict, Writing and Life | 2 Comments
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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I thought it was a friendly chat at first – an elderly couple at a picnic table by the lake enjoying the winter sun and each other’s company.

Then their posture changed. He sat with his back against the table, she at the edge of the bench seat, facing away from him, elbows on knees, back and head bowed.

As I walked closer, I heard an angry voice – his. Gesturing hand, stiff posture. He sounded as though he was justifying himself. If she replied, I didn’t hear it. He raised a beer can to his lips. She held one between her drooping hands. I hadn’t noticed them before.

In no mood to listen to someone else’s anger and its futility, I turned and walked the other way.

When I glanced over again later, her posture was the same as it had been previously, but he had turned away from her completely, arms and legs crossed, body tense.

I wouldn’t like to have gone home with them when they left. I wonder what tie, what imagined bond, keeps them together.

Do you take note of other people’s attitudes, bearing, actions, etc when you are out? What great material for writing real people!

(c) Linda Visman
14.06.14

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