The Eve of Destruction

August 29, 2019 at 2:57 am | Posted in 1960s, Australia, Culture, Destroying nature, divisions in society, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, historical fiction, History, Politics, Religion, Social Responsibility, War and Conflict, Ways of Living, Writing | 16 Comments
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It is after 2.30am and I cannot sleep. I am energised. I have realised that the book I thought I was going to write is a nothing story. I have another tale to tell, from another perspective. I had thought Tori (the main character of my second novel, “Thursday’s Child”) was going to be the MC of my third novel too, but she will be a secondary character. She has had her time and done well, but it is up to another now to take the story forward.

 

Meet Gemma Henderson. She is the 71-year-old me of 2019 in the body of a 17-year-old girl in 1965 (as I was then). She is the activist I wanted to be. She is the idealist who wants to stop wars because they are so damned stupid. She is the one who wants to raise all people to be equal. She is the one who sees the folly of toeing the political line of the times, the futility of consumerism and the falsity of the world the politicians offer.

 

She is the one who believes that women are every bit as good and as intelligent as, and even more caring than the men who seem to want  nothing but to destroy – destroy the youth in wars, destroy the marginalised, destroy the prospect of beauty with the horror of war and capitalism, destroy the world with their greed for money and power.

 

Gemma is a warrior; an Amazon; a young woman who wants to change the world. She is an fierce idealist who will brook no barriers to her desire to improve the world, to take it out of the hands of war-mongering, greedy men and bring it back to Mother Earth, to the Nurturer, the Carer.

 

She will be the main character in the third of my YA historical novels. She is the sister, the daughter, and the prospective mother of future generations. The world, its ordinary people and its creatures are her passion, and although the odds are stacked high against her, she is willing to fight for what she believes is right.

 

She is what I wish I could have been when I had the energy of youth. She is what I would have perhaps become had I not been bogged down in conformity to a dead, corrupted Catholic religion. She is what I wish I could be now, but age, health and energy are lacking in this older body. I cannot be her in the way I want to be, but I can be her in the days of my youth, the 1960s, when our country was about to go “all the way with LBJ”.

 

I did march against the Vietnam War once when I was at Sydney University in 1966, but I was bound by the ties I had to my family, church and the belief that women were not meant to be a force for good in the world outside of their nurturing role within the family; that they were not supposed to take a stand in a world that looked to the so-called heroics of war and the destruction of others for the meaning and justification for existence.

 

I wanted to be a force for peace, even then. When I thought of all the young men who’d died in the two world wars, in Malaya, in Korea, and then what we were doing all again in Vietnam, I remember crying to my mum, saying that this should not be happening. If older men want to fight then it should be they who go out and put their bodies on the line – not young men in the flower of their youth.

 

Yes, I know I am using a cliché there, but it really does mean something. Those young men – boys, really – were only budding,  their whole life was ahead of them. They had barely bloomed when they were sent to suffer the horrors of war; a war that had no real justification beyond greed, nationalism and military might, and fear of the different. Maybe it’s because I am a woman who has borne five sons that I feel this way. But even then, years before I bore more than the weight of “womanly expectations”, I felt the same way.

 

Tonight, I cannot sleep because I believe I can see the world more clearly than those who supposedly rule it. They can only see their immediate future, the rewards of power, privilege & wealth that they will receive at the expense of those who will bear the brunt of their ambitions. I want to show that the world has not changed, no matter how much we want it to.

 

People are still ruled by fear, a fear that is fostered and capitalised on by political bosses. Back in the 1960s, it was “The Domino Effect” – that China would take over South-East Asia, and that Australia would be next on their list. Today, it is the fear that Muslims are taking over the world, or again, that the Chinese will be our masters if we don’t oppose them. Why do so many always believe the lies they are told, the Goebbelsesque indoctrinisation, based on fear, that is pushed by those who want us to allow them the power to rule us; that we are lost if we do not oppose everyone who looks, prays or eats differently to how we do?

 

Well, anyway, I am energised by my new project in a way I haven’t been for years. The wishy-washy story I was going to tell has been flushed away in a tide of anger at the world of then and now, at those who would take us to the brink of total destruction, just for their own greed. I won’t just sit down and let them do it. I will be a Greta Thunberg of the 1960s. I will be Gemma Henderson.  

 

(c) Linda Visman

Writing Challenges

March 4, 2019 at 8:29 pm | Posted in Australia, Mental Health, Publishing, self-publishing, Writing, Writing and Life | 16 Comments
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When I discovered I really could write creative fiction back in 2005 at the age of fifty-seven, a flood-gate opened and words poured from my pen (I write my drafts by hand). I lost count of the number of short stories, poems, articles and memoir items I wrote over the following few years. And then I decided to write a novel, aimed at 10-16-year-olds, and things changed.

 

I wrote the following reflection in July 2011, when that first novel was about to go out into the world:

 

It took me four years to write Ben’s Challenge. All the way through, from the idea (it was originally going to be a short story) to the completion I had to battle to get it done. No, it’s not that I can’t write, or that it took many revisions, or that I didn’t know where the story was going and what I wanted it to do. And it’s not that I don’t know my grammar, punctuation and spelling either – I grew up in an era when schools taught that kind of thing. No, the problem was deeper than any or all of those.

My problem was a lack of confidence in myself, which manifested itself in many ways. The main issue I had to overcome was procrastination; after all, if I didn’t write, nobody could say it was rubbish, could they – and that included myself.

A life-long struggle with depression also helped make my self-doubts into mountains I was certain I couldn’t climb. Even when my critique group expressed admiration for my style of writing and for the story, I wasn’t able to relax and go with the flow.

Funnily enough, it was during my eighteen months of treatments for breast cancer that I wrote the most easily and with the most confidence. I suppose writing was no longer my sole focus, so I took the pressure off myself. My doubts became background noise, which I could often ignore. . .

 

After publishing Ben’s Challenge, it took me a couple of years to start on my next novel, this one for Young Adults. I had to work up the courage to see if the first book was just a one-off or if I was a “real writer”. As I had in writing that first one, I battled through self-doubt, bouts of depression and procrastination – again in spite of my writing critique partners’ and my husband’s support and encouragement. One period of not writing lasted for a whole year. As a result, it again took about four years before the book was finished. Thursday’s Child was published in February 2018 and those who have read it say it is an amazing and wonderful story – even better than the first one.

I have an idea for a follow-up to Thursday’s Child – a strong story line and again, challenging themes. I have written a few chapters, but am struggling to get moving on it. There always seems to be something more important to do – that’s the usual problem of procrastination, I suppose. You’d think that, after two well-received books, I would have confidence in myself; that the words would flow as they did fourteen years ago, but they don’t. I am scared that I won’t be able to pull it off again.

I know that if I really want the story to see the light of day, I must, as with the other stories, fight my way through the self-doubts, the fear and insecurity, and get on with the job. Or maybe I’ll just wait until after I’ve delivered my part of a panel presentation on self-publishing at the Newcastle Writers’ Festival in a month’s time. Then I’ll get stuck into it. Oh, that sounds like more procrastination though, doesn’t it? Mmmmm…

 

Linda Visman, 4th March 2019

 

Love this review of “Thursday’s Child”

August 30, 2018 at 4:07 pm | Posted in Australia, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, historical fiction, Reflections, role model, Social mores, Social Responsibility, Writing, Writing and Life | 9 Comments
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I am honoured to receive this wonderful review from a reader. Thank you Janet.

Dear Linda,

I’ve just finished reading “Thursday’s Child” and found it a fine piece of writing.

These days I have two simple criteria with regard to novels. I ask:
1. Did I care what happens to the people in the story?
2. Does the author present the story without me being aware of her techniques?

On both these criteria, your book gets a large tick.

I cared very much what happened to all the characters. Of course, Tori is the main focus, but her parents, her siblings, Adele, Gwen feel like real people with their own strengths and weaknesses, their own needs. I even cared about Grizzly, wondering if he continued as he began, or whether his encounters with Tori and Dad change him.

Your story kept me engaged, not wanting to rush ahead because what was happening in each moment mattered, but also keen to know how things would turn out. You write with skill, but, as I read, I was not aware of that. In other words, you, the writer kept yourself “out of the way”. That said, I do think a strength of your writing lies in the natural feel of the dialogue.

One aside: I remember that earth tremor in the early 1960s! I was living in Campbelltown at the time, and all the cups rattled in the cupboard!

At the library session on “Thursday’s Child” there was some discussion about the negative references to God and the church; people thought church schools would not allow their children to read such a book. Well, any church school that bans this book would also have to ban large parts of the bible, including the words from Psalm 22 that the gospel writer attributes to Jesus on the cross: My God, my god, why have you forsaken me?” The psalm adds the words: “Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” which express well Tori’s feelings, albeit in more literary language.

Actually there are many ethical/moral questions in your story, which could be explored fruitfully in a classroom: male violence and rape, abortion (legal or illegal?) and what support should be given to young mothers.

One moral issue that impresses me is that of vengeful violence. Questions that arise include: Does revenge work for the one who has been violated? Does punishment convince the perpetrator? Then there is the dilemma of whether or not to involve the police, with all the problems that entails, and whether personal vengeance is justified.

I suppose what I am saying is that it is many years since I worked in schools, public and Catholic, and primary school rather than secondary, but in those days I felt more free to discuss thorny issues in the Catholic school than I had in the public ones.
I will give the book to my niece who has a fifteen-year old daughter. I will be very interested to hear their responses.

So, Linda, in summary, congratulations.

Kind wishes,

Janet

 

Writing and the Arts

July 25, 2018 at 5:36 pm | Posted in Australia, Culture, Poetry, Writing | 16 Comments
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At the June meeting of the Lake Macquarie Fellowship of Australian Writers, our guest presenter was Jan Dean, who is well known in the Hunter region. Jan is an award winning poet, and a former art teacher who loves to combine these major passions. She is a member of Poetry in the Pub, and was its first female president. Jan introduced the LakeMac group to a few new ways of looking at writing, particularly in regard to the crossover between poetry and art.

 

Firstly, we were introduced to the concept of surrealism in art, poetry, drama, etc. Surrealism concerns the unconscious or subconscious mind – “the plausible impossible”. We saw a picture of Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” and discussed the elements of surrealism within it. Jan shared two surrealist poems: Antonin Artaud’s “Dark Poet’ and Arthur Rimbaud’s “The Drunken Boat”. She also read a poem she wrote based on a surrealist painting, and these gave us an idea of what kind of writing to which we could stretch ourselves.

 

The Persistence of Memory (1931) Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” 1931

 

Many of the group had not heard the term “ekphrasis”, i.e. writing stimulated by a piece of art, as in the poem “Ode to a Grecian Urn” by John Keats. Jan talked about how important it is to research the piece of art to get details correct. She read excerpts from her poem “Artemesia Reflects” (which is published in Paint Peels, Graffiti Sings, a pocketbook from Flying Islands Books, Macau). Artemesia Gentileschi was reputedly the first female artist to exist solely on the proceeds of her painting.

 

Jan pointed out that any piece of art – visual, auditory, performance – can provide stimulus for writing. She then gave us an exercise to do which involved linking surrealism and ekphrasis.

 

We each looked at a different, ordinary picture. Jan asked us to insert something grotesque into it that shouldn’t be there. We were to use the changed picture as a prompt to write a poem. My picture was of a woman and a man seated on opposite sides of a table. The woman’s face is sad, her arms rest on the table and she holds a disposable coffee cup in both hands. Her eyes are half-focused on the man, but his gaze is downwards, towards the cup. My insertion was a green emanation that rose from the cup and swirled around between the couple, touching neither.

 

The surreal aspect we gave to the picture was a great way to expand our understanding of any piece of art and how we could write about it. This is what I wrote about my picture:

Words, sickly, pastel-pale, swirl in the air.

Blue reaches for yellow, yellow for blue

trying to connect but,

unable to bridge the distance between them,

become absorbed into

amorphous green misunderstanding.

 

Surrealist overtones can be included when we write about still life pictures as well as any other. Jan gave us an exercise that showed how to put incongruous words together to create dream-like images that we can use in our writing. She introduced us to asemic writing too, images made up of meaningless words, beyond semantics, but which can stimulate the emotions.

Asemic-writing-necronomicon     Asemic writing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Examples of asemic writing

 

To complete the session, Jan reminded us of the Queensland Poetry Festival and encouraged us to enter its associated writing competition, the Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Award.

 

I left the session with my mind buzzing, words and images swirling, and a determination to use at least some of the writing techniques Jan shared with us. Perhaps I will even have a go at that ekphrasis competition.

 

Crazy, irrational things happen all the time in Surrealist literature. (Unknown origin)

What A Great Review!

March 18, 2018 at 1:35 pm | Posted in Australia, book review, historical fiction, Social mores, Writing | 13 Comments
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I am thrilled to share this wonderful review of Thursday’s Child from Linda Ireland. Linda is a retired academic and a great lover of literature. A member of the Blue Room Poets, and an organiser of the monthly event Poetry in the Pub in Morisset, NSW, she shares her love of poetry and encourages many others to do the same. I am honoured that Linda loved the book enough that she wanted to share her view of it with everyone.

 

Review of Linda Visman’s “Thursday’s Child”.

by Linda Ireland

Issues of rape, unwanted pregnancy, the rights of the child, the constraints of poverty and of family dysfunction are still very real concerns in modern Australia. It is easy to forget how hard it was for a young girl dealing with these issues before the feminist movement gave voice to them.

 

“One day, the times we live in now will be history to our children and grandchildren .” So goes an early conversation between a trusted teacher and 15 year old Tori as she struggles to make sense of her own present and a recent horrific past event. The consequences of this event become the basis of the story and its themes.

 

One of the strengths of Linda Visman’s  second young adult novel, “Thursday’s Child”, is the way in which it brings to life the realities of what it was like in the early 1960’s for an adolescent girl facing challenges on multiple fronts.

 

Told from Tori’s perspective, sometimes as narrator, sometimes as diarist, the story aligns the reader with her plight from the first pages. It speaks to its times with raw honesty and truth.

 

Yet this is a novel for today. It comes published amidst a resurgence of feminist outrage against sexism and abuse as voiced in #MeToo and in inspiring rhetoric from stages and screens, often from women empowered by feminism, wealth and fame. Visman’s novel speaks its own less public truths as it charts what it was like in another era to experience the world as a bright girl trapped in a dysfunctional family by circumstances which constantly remind her of her own powerlessness and lack of choice.

 

It was not enlightened social attitudes that could save a woman in 1960’s Australia. Rescue stood or fell on the strength of the woman herself, on the support of other women of generous heart driven by the lessons of their own past, on a modicum of good luck.

 

All of the characters in Visman’s novel are trapped in one way or another through circumstances which make them better people or worse. If you were born into a family dogged by poverty or alcoholism, if you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, if you were a woman born at the wrong time in history, bad luck. Tori’s journey shows us that the choice of what we accept and how we live a life rests ultimately with the self.

 

Through the raw emotional honesty of Tori’s thoughts and diary entries, Visman is careful not to present her central character as helpless victim. From the opening chapter, Tori emerges as a fighter. She recognises that she can choose to submit to the lot that is hers as a girl of her generation or she can choose to stand and fight for the powerless self against what she learns early and hard is the sheer injustice of the gender and class lottery. Tori’s God is hard and at times she rails against him.

 

The challenges as told in Tori’s continuous present are now a part of our history as women. Girls can take inspiration from her story. Boys can gain insight into the complexities of being a girl in any generation.

 

The journey of “Thursday’s child”  seeking a world beyond her lot, is treated with compassion and credibility. Linda Visman shows us that no young girl need stick to the tracks laid down for her by circumstance, but can set her own course through resilience, courage and the powerful ally of education.

 

Tori’s voice speaks out from the past to all young people of the present: you have far to go, get started.

 

Many thanks for this wonderful review, Linda Ireland.

 

Thursday’s Child is available from Amazon as a print  or  e-book here.

Comments on Thursday’s Child

February 24, 2018 at 8:05 pm | Posted in Australia, Gratitude, Publishing, Writing | 2 Comments
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It is wonderful to receive feedback after somebody has read your book. I know that most readers will not write a comment or, even less likely, a full review. However, after the first three weeks since my book went live on Kindle and also as a hard copy, a few people have told me what they think of it and, I am pleased to say, they are all positive.

The first comment on Thursday’s Child was only two or three days after the Kindle version became available.  Janet Lang, the wife of a retired Presbyterian minister, sent me two words: “Brilliantly written!”

The next was from Jan Mitchell, a member of the writing group I belong to; our local Fellowship of Australian Writers group. “I loved it!” she said. “Well done.”

Then came a comment on my Facebook author page from Sirpa Agyik in Queensland: “Two days ago I received my book “Thursday’s Child” from Amazon. Well Linda, once I started to read it, I could not put it down. EXCELLENT , BRILLIANT. Loved every page. Linda you are very talented author. Thank you. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.”

The latest is a Customer Review on Amazon:

5.0 out of 5 stars Unflinching

By Alfergus on 21 February 2018

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

“This young adult novel tackles the tough issues faced by a typical teenager in the early 1960s following rape and unwanted pregnancy. The story plays out against a backdrop of a society at the cusp of social change. The events are portrayed unflinchingly yet in a way that is suitable for the target readership. I enjoyed the way that Tori, an impetuous hot-headed teen, learns to trust the kindness of strangers and, eventually, herself.”

Many thanks for these comments. As they are for any writer who puts their creations out in the world, they are validation of all the time and effort and creative endeavour that I put into Thursday’s Child. I hope there are others who will let me know what they think of it.

 

Linda Visman

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday’s Child is now available!

February 1, 2018 at 9:59 am | Posted in Australia, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, historical fiction, Publishing, Society, Writing | 7 Comments
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Today, my novel for Young Adults,Thursday’s Child, is ready for download. If you have already ordered it on Kindle it will automatically download.

If not, you can order your copy now and get yourself or someone else who loves a coming-of-age story a great read. It is available on Kindle here, and as a print-on-demand book here.

If you don’t have a Kindle, there is an app on Amazon that allows you to read it on any platform.

Back cover

Settle in for a great story.

 

Linda Visman

‎How I came to write Thursday’s Child

January 29, 2018 at 7:30 am | Posted in Australia, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, historical fiction, Promotion, Writing | 4 Comments
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pexels-photo-204511.jpeg

 

Many people who liked my first Young Adult novel, Ben’s Challenge, requested that I write a follow-up to it. They wanted to know what happened to the characters after the book ended. So, when I finally got around to writing a second novel, I began it as a sequel to my first, expecting Ben to carry the story along.

I was a couple of months and fifteen chapters into the story when I realized it wasn’t working. The situation, theme, characters, plot couldn’t be played out with Ben there. I’d had a strong new character called Jessie in that aborted manuscript and she made me very aware that she had her own story to tell. I had to completely start over so it could be told.

I didn’t know much about Jessie at first, or what her story was. I just knew that she was a bright, ambitious girl from a large but poor Irish Catholic family. I knew what the opening chapter would be about, but even as the new chapters grew in number, I didn’t really know where it was heading. I also discovered I had given my character the wrong name. She wasn’t Jessie; she was Victoria – Tori Delaney.

From that point, Tori quickly showed me that she was quite happy to let my fingers be the instruments to tell her story, but that she would be telling it herself. And that is how I ended up with Thursday’s Child.

 

© Linda Visman

Writing Young Adults Novels That Break the Age Barrier

January 25, 2018 at 7:30 am | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Society, Ways of Living, Writing, Writing and Life | 4 Comments
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Here is a comment that was made on my blog post, Tori’s Book Review

I’m writing a book for YAs that might extend the age of readers into their early twenties. I could use some tips on YA writing. Any suggestions.  Christine

 

I’m not sure I can give Christine, or anyone for that matter, much in the way of tips on writing a book for young adults (say 14 to 30 and beyond). What I will do is write briefly about my own approach to writing them and hope that will help.

Like Christine, I want my book’s readership to extend beyond teenagers to adults of all ages. One way I try to do this is by being as real as I can be. My current novel, Thursday’s Child, deals with a couple of difficult issues, issues that have always been a part of growing up, of finding our place in society, and of dealing with the bad things that happen as well as the good..

For me, the characters are paramount. Readers are looking for characters they can identify with – even when they live in a different time, as mine do. Teens, and adults too, have similar desires, needs, hopes and ambitions for their lives, as well as similar obstacles to overcome to achieve them. Each person will see and approach them from their own perspective, but the basic issues remain: among these, are love and loss; fairness and tolerance; acceptance and understanding; freedom and equality to pursue one’s goals.

I don’t write comedy or fantasy or satire. I write about the world as it is, or as it was at the time of which I am writing. I find that a character and an issue come together for me and then I write that character’s story. All the characters begin to ‘speak to me’ in such a way that I can do that.

I think authenticity is of major importance in writing for anyone, not just young adults. You must be true to and honest with your characters, your themes and your future readers. For me, authenticity comes when I draw from my own knowledge, experience and understanding of the world and of people to create a person of flesh and blood and everything else that goes with it. I want that character to live an authentic life with authentic experiences. When I am writing, I am living my character, I am there and I bring (in this case) her into the reality of her world. I may not have experienced exactly what she goes through, but I have lived and observed life more than enough to be able to write it.

If, in our writing, we create real characters in real situations, with real problems they have to deal with and joys they can experience, then I think that book  we write, although primarily aimed at young adults, will resonate with older readers too.

My first novel, Ben’s Challenge, was written for twelve to sixteen-year-olds, but I have received many comments from readers of ten to ninety years of age about how much they loved it.

Christine, I hope you can get a similar response to your writing. It is possible, so go for it.

 

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. If you’d like to read Ben’s Challenge, click on the cover photo at the side.

 

© Linda Visman

Thursday’s Child – Picnic at the Waterfall

January 22, 2018 at 7:30 am | Posted in Australia, Birds, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, household chores, Nature, Promotion, Reading, Writing | 6 Comments
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I am writing a few blog posts to introduce the main character in Thursday’s Child, my new Young Adult novel, which is set in 1960-61 Australia. Victoria Delaney (Tori) is fourteen, in her second year of high school. She wants to become a teacher one day, but events conspire against her.

*         *         *

From Tori’s Diary

Thursday, 8th September 1960

We had such a lovely day today. I am so tired I can hardly write. It’s only a few days until we go back to school for the last term before Christmas, so we wanted to do something special. We got Mam to let us go to the falls for a picnic! The four of us – me, Carol, Mickey & Frankie set off after we’d done our morning chores. Danny’s only a baby, so he stayed home with Mam.

We followed the road, then a track, and after about four miles, we came to the creek. It wasn’t hot, but it was sunny, even through the trees and we were glad to get there. The water was so clear and cold to drink, wash our faces and bathe our bare feet in. Mam had made us promise not to go in swimming, so I had to watch Mickey so he didn’t.

We played around on the rocks and paddled where the water was shallow just out from the falls. How lovely the rock wall is where the water flows over into the waterhole! I’m no good at geology, but I could tell that lots of different layers sat on top of each other. The water had made them smooth and dark, and where the sun shone, the rock glistened and the water sparkled.

Mickey kept his eyes and ears open for birds all the time, and told us each time he heard or saw a different one. There are so many! Honeyeaters, red wattlebirds and a couple of different finches are the ones I remember. Frankie followed Mickey everywhere, as he usually does, and one time he slipped off a rock into the water. Thank goodness it wasn’t deep. He grazed his leg & got wet, but he was dry by the time we got home.

Carol and I wandered around, sometimes together and sometimes in different directions, but we all stayed close to the waterhole. I was hoping to see a platypus, but we must have scared them away. We did see a water dragon, and when we were walking back home, we saw a couple of wallabies – I think its wallabies in the mountains, not kangaroos, as they live in flatter country. Some of the wildflowers were out too and the golden wattles along the roadsides were still in flower.

We ate our jam sandwiches and boiled eggs for lunch and drank from the creek. We loved it so much that we didn’t want to leave, but we’d also promised Mam we’d be back in time to do our evening chores. I have to help with making dinner, and there are the chooks to feed, eggs to collect, Danny to look after, wood to chop for the stove. We got home in time, so Mam was happy, and even with the five-mile walk back, we were too.

 

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.

© Linda Visman

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