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

 

 

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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

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

Share Your World – Week 35

September 3, 2014 at 10:23 pm | Posted in Culture, Experiences, Society, Ways of Living, Writing and Life | 5 Comments
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Share Your World blog badge

Here are my responses to Cee’s latest questions, where we get to know each other better. And, I think we also get to know ourselves better.

Have your blogging goals changed?

The answer to this is “yes” and “no”. When I first began blogging four and a half years ago (where has that time gone!), my aim was to create a habit of writing regularly. That aim has largely been successful, and I am pleased about that.

If I waited till I felt like it

I had intended the main focus of my blog to be on the topic of writing. I have indeed posted a lot of entries about writing, but I have posted more on other topics. When I look back, I see that many of my posts, especially over the past year or more have been on history and, specifically, on my family history.
To me, that is still about writing. It is about writing more of my family history and putting together a book for my children and grandchildren to read. I want them to know something about where they come from, and about some of the wonderful ancestors who have had an impact on the development of my side of their heritage.

If you were to perform in the circus, what would you do?

Acrobat

I cannot imagine ever wanting to perform in a circus but, if I did, I think I would like to be an acrobat. If I could physically perform those twists, turns, leaps and balances, then maybe I could also do them mentally.

If you could go back and talk to yourself at age 18 what advice would you give yourself?

I think I would tell myself not to rush into the things that others say you should do. I would say to look at what is possible, and don’t be limited by their expectations. I would say that you are capable of much more than you believe, so stretch your imagination and realise that anything is possible.

What is your favourite comfort snack food?

Chocolate

Like so many people everywhere, I think it would have to be chocolate. It tastes good, it has caffeine and thus gives a boost in energy, and it releases endorphins to make things look more positive. I just wish it wasn’t so darned fattening!

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?
Last Sunday, we went on a six-kilometre walk along the Sydney coastline, from Coogee to Bondi. We went with friends who belong to the same sailing club we do. It was fabulous; the cliffs, the rocks, the sea, all bathed in beautiful sunshine for the last day of winter.

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Coming up this week is the launch of the fourth book by local author Jaye Ford. Jaye writes psychological thrillers, and the latest is Already Dead. I have read and really enjoyed the first three books and am keen to pick up a signed copy of the latest.

Already Dead Jaye Ford

(c) Linda Visman

Share Your World, Week 34

August 28, 2014 at 1:43 pm | Posted in Culture, Mental Health, Society, Travel, Ways of Living | 1 Comment
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Share Your World blog badge

I have joined Cee Neuner’s weekly blog challenge called “Share Your World”, and this is my first post. Cee poses a few questions each week and members share their replies on their own blogs, with a link back to Cee’s page.

The idea is to share yourself and the world in which you live with other bloggers around the world. I hope to find more interesting people through this challenge.

What is your favourite smell? What does it remind you of?

This is a hard one to start with, and I had to go to the other questions before coming back to it. I love so many smells, that it is hard to choose just one. However, I have decided to go with the ozone smell that comes with the first rain on warm, dry ground. It is always so welcome in this country, especially inland, where drought is all too common. It particularly reminds me of the years I spent in Central Australia back in the 1990s.

Name a song or two which are on the soundtrack to your life?

1. You Needed Me”: Anne Murray
During the 1970s and early 80s, I went through a particularly difficult period in my life. I suffered often from deep depression, to the extent that I wanted to leave life altogether. A friend introduced me to the 12-step support and recovery programme called GROW, which helped me to turn in a more positive direction.

GROW Australia

I attended a GROW conference one year as a Leader and there, an amazing young woman spoke to us. Her talk consisted of playing the song, “You Needed Me”, followed by her explanation of how it encapsulated her own recovery through Grow and the mutual support of people in it.
It really resonated with me, and the song has been very special to me ever since.

2. Sometimes When We Touch”: Dan Hill
I remember the strength and beauty of a passionate love. This is the song that was playing when we declared ourselves. We were together for 20 years.

Do you play video/computer game? Which one(s) or most recent?

I have never played video games – I would much rather read a book. Besides, I was already the mother of five sons when they first made their appearance. I used to play Spider Solitaire on the computer, sometimes almost addictively. Now, I have too many other great things to do to waste my time on a game.

Which of Snow White’s 7 dwarfs describes you best? Plus what would the 8th dwarf’s name be? (Doc, Happy, Bashful, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey)

Perhaps a bit of Doc and a bit of Grumpy I suppose, but getting more like Sleepy and Dopey!

seven-dwarfs

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

There are always so many things to be grateful for, and last week was no exception.

1. It was my birthday on the 17th, and I was able to be with my 4 siblings on the day. It isn’t often that the five of us can get together, as two of us live quite a distance from the other three.

2. I’m also grateful that my writing is progressing steadily, with plenty of blog posts, some poetry, and more of my novel written.

In the week ahead, I am looking forward to keeping the writing momentum going, as well as spending some time out in the yard and in the bush – if the rain gives me the chance (the rain is however, most welcome)

(c) Linda Visman

In Our Winter Garden

August 10, 2014 at 7:45 pm | Posted in Australia, Gardens, Mental Health, Nature, Ways of Living | 9 Comments
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Our Garden sign

It was a lovely sunny August day, winter here in Australia. I had been picking up the small dead branches that occasionally fall from the eucalypts in the wind. I break up the branches, and either put them in the green waste bin to be mulched by the Council, or give them to a neighbour who has a wood burning heater.

Before that, I had helped the MOTH (Man of the House) to fix part of a wire side fence that had been threatening to fall over. Our yard is mostly open, as we don’t like to feel enclosed – just a paling fence up the back, and an open wire fence along one side to keep the neighbour’s dog in. Most of it is hidden by bushes and trees. The other two sides are not fenced at all.

IMG_0125

Our yard is almost all Australian native species of trees and shrubs, a habitat we are preserving for local wildlife such as birds, lizards and any other species that care to make their home here. Yes, even spiders, centipedes and snakes!

I love walking around it to see how everything is progressing. That day, I took a few photos as well.

This ‘Happy Wanderer’ self-sowed at the base of a Spotted Gum, and is growing up into another self-sown native sapling. It is a variety of Hardenbergia, like the one above, which we bought from a nursery.

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Our Cootamundra wattle (Acacia baileyana) has grown well since we put it in as a small sapling three years ago. It is three times my height now.

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The group of plants below really took off last summer. On the left is one of two cycads we planted some years ago. They are an ancient variety of plant, but I don’t know which species it is.

Behind it are ponytail palms (Beaucarnea species). I have only just discovered that they are native to Mexico! In the right front is a Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthus), native to S-W Western Australia. Behind that is a Banksia, and on the far right is a Christmas Bush. Two Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoea) once called Blackboys, have been overtaken by the cycads in front of them. They are pretty slow growing.

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Part of our garden has seen an invasion by a foreigner. This plant was probably introduced as an exotic ‘air plant’, but has recently escaped and can be found in many local yards. What we call ‘Old Man’s Beard’, comes from the U.S. Pacific Coast. Because it only hangs from trees and is not a parasite, it has been allowed to grow everywhere.

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From one small piece that blew into our garden 3-4 years ago, it is now well established. It makes this part of the front garden seem very eerie, especially on a dull day of misty rain. The ‘beard’ hangs from the branches of a Pepper tree, two Bottlebrush (Callistamon), and a Tibouchina.

I love our garden. It is a place I can go to when I am stressed and need to feel the soothing power of nature.

The wattle among the Spotted Gums

The wattle among the Spotted Gums

Do you have a garden? What does a garden mean to you? If you don’t have one, would you like to?

© Linda Visman

Indulging Our Creative Side

May 17, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Posted in Australia, Family, Mental Health, Ways of Living | 6 Comments
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Creativity - intelligence having fun

I am constantly amazed – though I shouldn’t be – at the number of writers who engage in other creative endeavours.

A few members of my writing group are also artists in paint and/or drawing. Many of the writers whose blogs I try to keep up with also engage in creative activities beyond writing.

creative-writing-art-design-craft

Activities among the women include cooking, art, ceramics and pottery, dressmaking or other sewing, crochet-work, knitting and many other arts or crafts.

I haven’t heard much about the non-writing creative activities of the male writers I read, but I suppose there are many of them who are also into other areas of creation – music is one that has been mentioned.

Arts-and-crafts-icon

I have found it difficult to get much going beyond my writing during the last few years – I only began to write about eight years ago, and I am now in my mid-sixties. However I have always needed some form of creative activity to keep me happy.

I have always been a reader of course – what writer isn’t? However, I cannot draw for the life of me, nor can I paint or make music – and you don’t want to hear me sing, even though I do break out now and then.

I love to make things. Over the years, I have constructed all sorts of things for the house and garden. They include fences, chicken coops, bird cages, small items of furniture and garden beds.

Leatherwork 2 (1280x960)I learned to do leatherwork when my youngest was a toddler, and loved it. I made the usual things: key cases, wallets and bags, belts, and also bible covers. I didn’t sell them, just made them for myself, family and friends. The trouble was that the cost of the leather became too high for me to continue. With a family of five sons on my then husband’s teaching salary, the money wasn’t available for expensive hobbies.

A nice cheap activity I took up for a few years was woodwork. Mostly, I made small items from scrap wood that I scrounged or was given. The main items I created were fridge magnets, key racks and pen holders, but I also made a couple of larger items. I really enjoyed it.
Our market stall Nov 03

I also took up making rugs for the floor, using the technique that my mother used when we lived in England in the 1940s and 50s, and then when we first came to Australia. I would peg strips of fabric cut from old clothing with a tool on to a sacking base. The resulting rugs can be very colourful.
Pegged rug 2
A few years ago, concerned that all my photographs were digital, and that not many ended up in photo albums – my last album was 2003 – I decided to print the best ones to mount into scrap books. I don’t do scrap-booking as often as I’d like to, but I do at least have my sons, their families and their children, as well as some of our road trips, represented in four or five books now.

Scrapbook 2 (1280x662)

It appears that many writers like being creative in other areas of art and crafts too. What activities do you indulge in to fulfil your need for creative outlets?

You-cant-use-up-creativity

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

Z is for Zed and Zee

April 30, 2014 at 10:15 am | Posted in Culture, Society, Ways of Living | 9 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

 

The Zed

 

I’ve always thought it strange that the U.S.A. has a different pronunciation for a simple letter of the alphabet than her mother country Britain, and the rest of the English-speaking world

What we pronounce as ‘zed’, the Americans pronounce as ‘zee’. The reason for the difference can be found at “Today I Found Out”. Zee has always sounded weird to my ears, though I am becoming used to hearing it around me more often. Many people here in Australia watch American shows on TV and go to American movies at the cinema. To an ever growing extent, the younger ones are taking up the American pronunciation.RoyRogers &DaleEvans 1950s

Of course, Americanisation of Australian culture didn’t just begin with the current generation. When I was young, I loved to watch and read about the American West. Our own west was seen as unexciting.

 

That's me on the left.

That’s me on the left.

 

I wanted a cowboy set for Christmas one year. Not a girl’s set, but a boy’s; boys had more fun then. I got one! My sister received a cowgirl set – she wasn’t a tomboy like me.

gun& holster set

 

Television and movies have done a great deal for the infiltration of American ideas, words, and ways of doing things. One of the reasons it was so successful in Australia up until about the 1990s is what we called the “Cultural Cringe”. Australians were ashamed of their culture, thinking it could never measure up to the British or the American.

Cultural cringe

Thankfully, we now realise that we have a lot to offer the world. Indeed, our scientists and medical researchers are world class and often in demand. So are our actors, our inventors and our pop stars.

However, all that is too late to halt the insidious incursion of the American idiom into our everyday speech. Along with other words, ‘lift’ is becoming ‘elevator’; ‘footpath’ is becoming ‘sidewalk’; ‘bonnet’ and ‘boot’ (of a car) are becoming ‘hood’ and ‘trunk’.

Don’t ask for ‘chips’ in MacDonald’s, they only have ‘fries’. And when you ask the youngsters there for a ‘biscuit’, they say, “We don’t have biscuits, I’m afraid; only cookies.”

 

cookies

 

Even our emergency call number 000 is under threat. Many TV watchers dial the American 911, believing it to be our emergency number too. Telephone providers have had to adapt their systems to allow for a 911 call to go to our own  emergency lines.

Call 000

All this shows how one culture can affect another so much in a relatively subtle way. Cultural exchange can be a very positive force for renewal and the creation a vital nation. But that works best when it is slow and steady, as it had been until relatively recently, and when countries already share many aspects of culture and they are given time to adapt.

Cross culture exchange

When high numbers of people are forced to flee to other countries in fear of their lives, the receiving countries can become fearful that their own culture will be undermined. This is especially true when the race, religion and culture of the asylum seekers are very different to those of their hosts.

However, I am not dealing with that violent aspect here. All I want to do is to show how a culture can gradually change through such simple things as words and their pronunciation.

 

z_zed_not_zee_napkins from zazzle

 

We are all seeing change in the culture of our various countries. Are you happy with gradual change, bur have a fear of rapid change?

 

(c) Linda Visman  30.04.14  (555 words)

 

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)

 

X is for X-ray

April 28, 2014 at 10:06 am | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Family History, Health, Ways of Living | 13 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

 

 

Old chect X-ray machine

Back in the 1950s and 60s, tuberculosis (TB) was still a problem disease in Australia. I didn’t know until a couple of years ago that my grandmother had it and that we were exposed to it for some years by being close to her.

Modern mobile TB testing unit in UK

Mobile TB testing unit in the U.K.

I remember when we were young, there was a TB truck that visited country towns, where people would have a Mantoux test to see if there was any infection. It was a prick with a needle that put non-active tuberculin derivitave under the skin. The area would have a small reaction and swelling if there was no TB infection and a larger swelling if there was. I will always associate the smell of cleansing alcohol with that truck.

Mantoux test 01

It also had an X-ray set-up, where anyone with a positive reaction to the Mantoux test would have an X-ray to see if there was any active TB. My father usually had to have one, though he never had active TB.

X-ray of lungs showing TB

X-ray of lungs showing TB

Whenever he had one of those X-rays, and also any routine chest X-ray, Dad was always recalled for a follow-up, because he had scarring on the lungs. This wasn’t from TB however, but was a legacy of the severe pneumonia he’d suffered and almost died from as a young child (Story here).

Chest-X-ray

I suppose many of us have had X-rays taken at various times to check out an injury or a possible internal problem. Lots of people, just in the course of day-to-day living have fractured a limb, had chest X-rays for a necessary medical examination, or needed checking for something more serious.

BreastScreen NSW-logo

Quite a few years ago in Australia, in an attempt to reduce the death rate from breast cancer, the Federal government brought in testing of women between the ages of 50 and 74. Every two years, we can have a free X-ray – mammogram – to detect the presence of any lumps or anomalies.

In large towns and cities there are Screening Clinics. In smaller country towns and rural areas, just as the TB truck did, a large BreastScreen truck makes regular visits, staying for a few days or a week to complete the appointment list previously booked. I took advantage of this and had my regular checks when the reminder came that it was time.

Mobile BreastScreen unit, NSW.

Mobile BreastScreen unit, NSW.

mammogram-picture

 

In January 2009, I had my mammogram as usual (fellas, try squashing your privates between two cold flat plates!) Previous X-rays had shown nothing, so there was no following letter. But this time, they had found something they wanted to follow up on.

Another mammogram to see if they saw the same anomaly – they did – followed by an ultrasound scan –  it was still there – followed by a biopsy (all on the same day) and I was given the news that I did indeed have a cancerous lump.

whoever_said_breast_cancer winner

I am happy to say that the cancer was contained and surgery removed it. I was advised to undergo chemotherapy as well as radio-therapy, as I had two indicators  plus family history, that made it more likely there may be problems if even one cancer cell remained, even after the surgery. I undertook those treatments (and suffered from the well-known ‘chemo brain’), plus hormone therapy.

 

 

For the next five years I had free mammograms and ultra-sound examinations every year. In March this year, I said goodbye to my oncologists, as I am now considered cancer-free. I am a cancer survivor. However, I can still have free annual X-rays to find any new lumps that may develop.

I will be grateful for whatever pain and discomfort the mammogram causes. My father’s mother and sister didn’t have the chance to make a recovery from their breast cancers because they didn’t have the tests to catch them early enough for treatment.

I have been given the chance for a life that they didn’t have. I will make the most of it.

1-31-mammogram-sign

Have you had much experience of X-rays?  Has an X-ray saved someone in your family?

 

© Linda Visman 28.04.14  (695 words)

 

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