A Letter to my Grandchildren

August 3, 2015 at 12:30 am | Posted in Experiences, Family History, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Memoir | 10 Comments
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monday-memoir-badge

June 2005

My dear Grandchildren,

Remember when you’ve been to the museum, where you saw old carts and other old things. You thought that it was very old, and that those days were very long ago. Well, we used to have our milk in one of those old carts

My Mum and Dad and us kids had come out from England when I was five. We didn’t have much money, even though my Dad worked very hard. He did manage to put a deposit on a block of land. Back then, not like it is now, the area was all bush, and our land was on the shore of the lake. There were five or six houses within a few hundred metres of us, and a little store over on the highway. Dad rented a caravan, and we lived in it on our block of land. There was no electricity, but the water was connected to a tap at the front of our block of land.

I remember how we all helped Dad to clear the land, and how we played in the bush around our house and on the lake shore. The only thing we had to watch out for was snakes.

Anyway, back to the cart – well, in a roundabout sort of way! How do you get your milk? In plastic bottles from the supermarket I’ll bet! Well, we didn’t. There were no supermarkets then. There were no plastic bottles either. And, where we lived, there weren’t even any glass milk bottles yet!

Our milk was brought around early every day by a man called Max. Max had a trusty old horse named Fred (now, isn’t that an original name for a horse!). Old Fred was very well trained. Max and Fred and the cart would come along the rough dirt road with a big tank of milk sitting on the back of the cart. As they went along, the people would come out of their houses with their billycans. Max would give a whistle, and Fred would stop, right outside the house – or caravan in our case.

Milk cart&horse

Each of us kids always wanted to be the one to take out the billycan to have it filled up from the tank. At first, we were all a bit wary of Fred the horse, because we weren’t used to such big animals, but we soon got to know that he wouldn’t hurt anyone. It was exciting to give Max our shilling and see the creamy milk splash into our billycan. When our can was full, and we had exchanged a word or two with Max, he would give another whistle, and off Fred would plod to the next house. We had to be really careful carrying the billycan of milk back down to Mum, so that we wouldn’t spill it.

Now, don’t you think that’s a more interesting way of buying your milk?

Mum would put the milk into an icebox because we didn’t have a refrigerator – or even electricity. But that’s another story!

With love from

Grandma

This started off as a letter to my young grandchildren– written over ten years ago when the first of them was only a year old, even though I pretended that he was a lot older. I wrote it to describe how we got our milk when I was a child,

I wanted to show that it wasn’t really so long ago that things were so different. But perhaps I’m having myself on. Even a child of seven or eight would think fifty years (as it was when I wrote it) WAS a heck of a long time ago. It just doesn’t seem that way to me, and now it is sixty years ago!

Anyway, it’s interesting to look back on those changes.

Would you like to share an example that illustrates the changes from when you were a child to now?

©  Linda Visman

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Share Your World – Week 46

November 19, 2014 at 9:44 pm | Posted in Family, Gratitude, Leisure activities, Mental Health, Nature | 7 Comments
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Share Your World blog badge

 

 

Here is another interesting set of questions from Cee for Week 46 of Share Your World.

 

On a vacation what you would require in any place that you sleep? 

Our camper van

Our camper van

A comfortable bed is essential. I think that if you have somewhere comfy to sleep, you can handle anything else a holiday has to throw at you. But there is one more thing I need – a comfy chair in which to relax, to read, to enjoy a wine at the end of the day.

In our little Toyota HiAce camper, we have a lovely comfortable bed, based on the seat cushions and topped with two layers of foam. That bed stays made up for the duration, and we either do without a table or use the one that attaches outside.

However, our van doesn’t have a comfortable chair, at least not inside. The front seats are separated from the back of the van by the engine housing, and when we stop, any extra bits and pieces are stored on those seats until we set off again. The floor space is small, with no room for a chair. Hubby loves to read or otherwise relax lying down, so he’s fine, but to relax I need to sit. So the only times I can do so in comfort is when the weather is good enough – and the mosquitoes non-existent – to sit in the folding camper chair outside.

Music or silence while working?

I lived out in the back blocks of Central Australia for many years. When you just needed a tape recorder and a few of your favourite tapes, my partner and I used to play music all the time. When we moved back to civilisation, she played music more than I did, but I always had it playing in the background as I did my woodwork in the garage.

Once I began writing my family’s history however, music distracted my thoughts, so I got out of the habit of playing it. Now, years later, in a different state, with a husband who also loves music, we have lots of CDs to play. But we don’t play them! We don’t really know why.

However I think it is time we did something about it. Perhaps I should find out if music will stimulate my creative writing rather than distract me from it.

If you were to move and your home came fully furnished with everything you ever wanted, list at least three things from your old house you wish to retain?

Dad in his woodworking shed

Dad in his woodworking shed

My photo and scrapbook albums, my folders of family history records, my journals, and my computer external drive with all my writing and photographs would have to go with me. I would also want to take the few family keepsakes I have – Mum’s sewing things, her old teapot, her small paintings and shells, and the small tables, wooden bowls and knick-knacks that Dad made. I don’t have Mum and Dad any more, but I want to keep something of them by me.

What’s your least favorite mode of transportation?

I can’t say I have a least favourite. I love to travel, so any way I can do that is good. My most favourite mode is driving myself, always has been. I used to drive 1,700-2,500 km each way to visit my family in NSW twice a year when I lived in the Northern Territory. It was also a 320km drive to the nearest town (Alice Springs) over mostly dirt roads just to do business and buy groceries. I loved it.

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

I am grateful for the four days we were able to relax and enjoy the Aussie bush, sleeping and eating in our camper. I was also really happy that we could have dinner with my younger sister and her husband and catch up on each other’s families and busy lives. As we get older, we become even closer to each other, even though we are different in many ways.

I am looking forward to going to the local art gallery with my neighbour friend to the launch of a book about our town’s most famous person, the late Sir William Dobell, a major Australian artist of the mid twentieth century.

(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.

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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

An Orange Treat

June 17, 2014 at 4:07 pm | Posted in Australia, Family History, History | 7 Comments
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Group of oranges

Mum loved oranges. When we lived in England she would occasionally buy the Australian ones. They were the best to be had, large, sweet and juicy, something to put in a Christmas stocking, a real treat.

Dad made the decision to come to Australia when he returned from the war in 1946. He first applied to migrate in 1947, but it wasn’t until 1954 that families were allowed to have assisted passage.

Assisted passage adMum would have seen Australia, then a British colony, as many others did – rough, raw and wild. I’m sure it was Dad’s enthusiasm that drove the emigration; Mum was more reluctant and full of anxiety. Leaving the soft English country farms and moors and even the dank, dark and soot-stained town was a step into the unknown for her

One of the things that may have softened the anxiety she felt at leaving her home, her mother and all that was familiar to her, was the thought of those beautiful Australian oranges. She could enjoy them any time, instead of only when they were in season) and available from the local Oswaldtwistle greengrocer. That was in the Australian winter, summertime in England.

Orange export label Leeton 1940s

To Mum’s great disappointment, those big, sweet and juicy oranges were not even available in Australia. All the best of them were exported, mostly to England. What was available in Australian shops was the second and third grade fruit.

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What a let-down!

Have you ever got your hopes up over something and had them dashed when you got it?

(c) Linda Visman 17.06.14

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)

 

G is for Genealogy

April 8, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Posted in Experiences, Family, Family History, History, Society, Ways of Living, Writing | Leave a comment
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

 

Genealogy has several meanings, but the one I focus on in my interest and activity is this: the study of family ancestries and histories.

To many people, genealogy means making their family tree. They look up names and dates and relationships and places, but that is as far as they go. All they want is a chart they can display in a book or on the wall. But to me – and to other serious researchers – genealogy involves many different facets apart from, but also including this.

Who I am

What is the point of knowing names and dates if you don’t know the people, their relationships within the immediate and extended family, the places they lived, what they did for a living, their place and station in society, their religious and political beliefs? You can’t know a person at all unless you know all these things and unless you know about the times and culture in which they grew up and lived as adults.

family

Knowing all these things gives us a background to our grandparents’, our parents’ and our own lives. It puts us into a context that can give us a much greater understanding of who we are and how we came to be who we are within our family and society as a whole.

Linda&Pauline T abt 1955

I started researching my family history for a college assignment back in 1976. I had to talk with my parents and anyone else I could in order to complete the assignment. I had always been interested in history but, when I went to school, history revolved around religion and politics, gods and kings. In undertaking this new task, my interest in personal and family origins was ignited.

history remembers

I worked on researching my background for the next thirty years. Because I was born in England and we had emigrated to Australia when I was only five years old, it was a slow process in the first twenty-five years. I had to do everything through the postal service – applying for my grandparents’ marriage certificates, their birth certificates, etc.

EdwardRThompson-birthextract 1893

It was a matter of slowly working back through the generations to verify names, dates, places, occupations, and so on.

James-EllenThompson-marr1792

Along with this slog through the records was a parallel course of research, centred on learning about the times in which my ancestors lived, so that I could catch a glimpse of how they might have lived.

Because those times were different from my own, I had always to remember that they had different beliefs to mine, different laws and understandings, different ways of doing things, and different ways of living. I could not judge them by the standards of the present, for their world was a different one to mine.

In the end, I published a 136-page family history book in 2002, which I expanded to a book of 278 pages in 2005.

Now&Then cover (919x1280)

I haven’t done much work on the family history since then, as I changed the focus of my interest to other kinds of writing. But I am pleased to say that my interest in genealogy has been inherited by my youngest son, who is carrying on with the original research I did on his father’s side of the family.

I hope that, when I die, I can bequeath my considerable research materials to the National Archives of Australia or to the one in the UK.  I don’t think my son has enough room in his house to keep them!

Chasing your own history

 

Do you have any interest in the history of your family? Have you done any research, or gathered oral evidence from family members? Have you created a book for your family to share their origins with them?

 

© Linda Visman 08.04.14 (605 words)

Toronto (NSW, Australia) Classic Boatfest

March 30, 2013 at 5:49 pm | Posted in Australia, Tourism | 6 Comments
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It was a fabulous autumn day for the first day of the annual Classic Boatfest at Toronto, Lake Macquarie, NSW, Australia.

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Here are a few photos to show you some of the boats on display.

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There were some beautifully restored and finished wooden boats of all sizes.

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The Solar Sailor takes passengers on cruises of lake Macquarie – a beautiful lake with many bays, deep water and several islands.

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We were fortunate to have blue skies, warm to hot sun and a light breeze.

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 Lake Macquarie is a lovely place to visit, with many places to see and activities to participate in. It’s even better when you live here.

Photos by Linda Visman

(c) Linda Visman 30.03.2013

 

Whose Tradition?

October 27, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Posted in Australia, Family, History, Society, Special Occasions | 8 Comments
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Halloween, a corruption of All Hallows Eve, is celebrated on the 31st of October each year. It comes the day before All Saints’ Day, celebrated on the 1st of November.

Centuries ago in England and, later, in America, it was believed that the souls of the dead appeared among the living. Superstitious rituals grew up as people sought to protect themselves from the evil souls that had not died in a state of grace.

Over the years and into the 20th century, Halloween mostly lost its religious significance. It has now become, as have many other Christian rituals, a secular celebration of over-indulgence on the dark side.

Australia, because it was settled later than the Americas, and in more enlightened times, didn’t become part of the mania of Halloween until quite recently. And the only reason it has done so now is because of a different god – one created in the 20th century.

Multinational stores have extended their grip into our country, bring with them their sacred rituals for placing more, and yet more profits on the altar of Consumerism.

Now, every October, we are bombarded by the spooky: books, blogs and writing contests on the themes of ghosts, ghouls and gremlins; ads for creepy costumes and party gear; and whole stores full of “candy” – chocolates and lollies and every other sweet thing that can be created by man for sale to the gullible.

As if we don’t already have a sugar-coated and sugar-centred society! Dentists for the well-off rub their hands in glee. However, the people who cannot afford to go to a dentist – but the most likely to buy into this cacophonous culture of cash – are left with blackened and rotten teeth. I suppose that is apt, given the dark and sickly nature of Halloween’s origins.

When my children were young, in the 1970s and 1980s, Halloween had not yet caught hold in Australia – for which I am very grateful. But now, it is my grandchildren who are being coerced into a culture that celebrates darkness and consumerism.

I will not support this imported, destructive ritual. When children come to my door crying “trick or treat”, they get neither.

It is not my tradition!

© Linda Visman

Lake Macquarie sailing, NSW

February 29, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Writing and Life | 4 Comments
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We find a lovely grassy spot on a hill overlooking the lake so we can watch the action, and park our folding chairs. We have come to see our Careel Association boats sail in their National Championships, but we discover at least two, and possibly three other clubs involved in their own races. The area of Lake Macquarie we can see is dotted with sails.

From a distance, the little Sabots are like white butterflies with wings folded walking on water. Our 18- and 22-foot Careels look almost clumsy by comparison, a bit like moths – though they do sail beautifully. Larger sailing boats and a few motor cruisers make their way grandly through the other racers, avoiding the delicate butterflies and the heavier moths. Small speedboats slash an occasional streak of white, cutting the lake into slices.

Then, streaking through the flotillas like a low-flying dragonfly or a scurrying water strider, comes a mini-hydrofoil under sail. Riding high on two thin legs, it zips past, back and forth, leaving everything else, even the fastest speedboat, in its hardly-discernible wake.

There has been a good breeze in the late morning, but it increases further as the afternoon wears on. The boats monitoring the race buoys dip and bob in the swell, bows to the wind, anchor chains straining – rather unsettling to sensitive stomachs.

Our lake looks a little different when viewed from the heights rather than from the shore or on our boat. We take in the white-streaked sky and hazy distances; the grey, wind-chopped waves, silver-glistening, ever-moving, studded by small whitecaps.

A boarder bends his back to his paddle, a tiny figure almost lost among the sailing boats. Occasionally, wind at his back, he manages to catch a swell and rides if for a few seconds.

A large catamaran, kevlar sails pushing it along at a good clip, is the first of the large boats’ racer to finish; the slower boats trickle in behind. The Careel 22s in our races deploy their colourful spinnakers on the downwind leg, while the slower Careel 18s goose-wing their way behind.

A speedboat trailing a water-ski-er races by, defying both the elements and the flotillas. A late arriving, screaming jet ski barges in but does not stay, preferring to move to quieter waters farther round the lake.

As the sun westers, the lake changes colour from a deep grey-blue to surging, rippling, gleaming platinum. The last race is over and it is time to pack up our seats and head home to change for the race dinner at the club. There, no doubt, successes and near misses and the joys of sailing will be the main topics of conversation.

 

Have you been in a sailing boat? Do you have water and water sports near you?  Would you like to live near a body of water or a river?

© Linda Visman

written on 29th February 2012

(The races were on 25-26th Feb)

Writing a River of Stones

January 3, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Posted in Nature, Writing and Life | Leave a comment
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    This January, I am helping to create a River of Stones on Writing Our Way Home.

Small stones are short pieces of writing that result from opening our eyes to the small things around us, to nature, to the wonders of our world.

So far, I have submitted four small stones, and I am including them here as well….

Small Stone 1: A Waving Hand

As I drive home from the shopping centre, movement in the back window of the bus just ahead of me catches my attention.

A small, blond-haired boy is waving. I smile and wave back. He waves more vigorously in response, and then there is more movement. Two more arms are also waving. I wave again.

As the bus’s course and mine diverge, we all wave goodbye.

Twenty seconds of interaction lead to many hours of joyful memory.

Small Stone 2:  Calling Cards

Streaks of brown, white and grey on the bed sheet and towel that have been drying on the line; they need re-washing, but I do not mind.

They are indications of the numbers and variety of bird life we have around our home.

The birds have every right to the space and to leave their ‘calling cards’ for me; so natural, so welcome.

Small Stone 3: Tawny Frogmouth Owls

The owls have returned, briefly, to the tree by our back door.

Three soft, fluffed-up shapes that only slightly break the outline of the branches.

Speckled grey plumage fits so well with the bark that it takes a sharp eye to see them.

Mother, and two almost-grown young; father not yet found, but probably in a nearby tree.

Soon, the young ones will be sent on their way, to make their own lives and create their own territory elsewhere.

We will miss them.

Small Stone 4: Empty Cicada Shell

Sharp claws on six brittle legs,

attached to a dried out shell casing,

cling tenaciously to rough tree bark.

Light brown on dark, discarded,

having served its protective purpose.

It remains there, still and silent,

while its owner, in brighter array,

sings to the summer.

(c) Linda Visman

 If you would like to contribute to the River of Stones, go here  to set up your page.

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