Re-telling the story

March 1, 2016 at 10:53 pm | Posted in 1960s, Australia, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, historical fiction, Mental Health, Ways of Living, Writing and Life | 27 Comments
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For the last month or more, I have been re-writing my second novel, (its working title is Thursday’s Child, although that will probably change). It isn’t  complete – I had written about 62,000 words  but, about four-fifths of the way through it,  I had hardly written anything on it in the year until this January.

I was stuck. I couldn’t get motivated. I had no enthusiasm to get the story finished.  I also had a year in which depression played too big a part. I wondered if my book would ever get written.

Then, after reading a few teen/Young Adult novels at the end of last year that worked really well, I decided to change my story from past tense and third person to present tense and first person. So now, my main character is telling her own story instead of someone else telling it for her. It works so much better!

With my new-found enthusiasm and will, I have so far re-written and edited my manuscript to over 60,000 words. I have another 5,000 words to go until I get to the place where I almost gave up a year ago.

I am hoping – no, expecting – that when I get there, I will be able to carry the story to its conclusion. After all, it is so much better to be telling the story as if I am the main character than telling it from an outside perspective.

My main character, Tori, has become much more real to me in the process of re-writing, and at times, I can feel her emotions as if they are mine. They are raw and real.

My first novel, Ben’s Challenge, was written in first person past tense, and that seemed to work well. But this one does better written as an unfolding story in the present. That present being Australia in 1959-1960.

I simply must finish telling Victoria’s (Tori’s) story!

 

(c) Linda Visman

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I Remember When …

June 22, 2015 at 12:30 am | Posted in Family, Gratitude, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Memoir | 10 Comments
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monday-memoir-badge

 

I remember when…

 

The lake shore, the farms and the local streets

were all places where children could safely roam;

and we played pirates, and cowboys and Indians

and wandered ‘til dark in the bush near our home.

 

I remember…

 

The milk and bread being delivered to our door

on a cart with a horse that knew when to stop;

when it was exciting to travel on a steam train

and a penny bought four lollies at the local shop.

 

And I remember…

 

Walking three miles to church on a Sunday

with my family and wearing my best frock;

and the joy of reading a library book

or of being allowed to stay up until eight o’clock.

 

Aah, the memory of…

 

Our excitement when Christmas morning arrived

and we couldn’t wait to see what Santa had brought;

when the family came together to share a meal

and we sang the old songs that we’d all been taught.

 

Do I want to remember…

 

Going outside down the path, in sunshine or rain,

to the backyard dunny with its newspaper and pan,

in daylight or dark, with the smell all around,

hoping they’d not come while you’re sitting to pick up the can?

 

I also remember…

 

The long hard hours Dad worked to get enough

for the basics of life and a deposit on some land;

And Mum, never knowing if ends would meet

or if there’d be enough money to go around.

 

And the polio that changed our whole way of life

when it struck down my brother and sister – and Dad;

How Mum coped with all the worry and stress;

Her fears we’d never keep even the little we had.

 

But the things I remember best are these…

 

the love that our family had for each other

and the strength this gave us in bad times and good;

the joy we took in life’s simple things;

the hard work that was something we all understood;

the respect that we knew was earned and not bought;

and the strong moral lessons that our parents had taught.

 

Maybe rose-coloured glasses have changed my perspective,

but I believe that our past is always subjective.

What we do with our memories shows who we’ve become –

so let’s use them to help us in times that will come.

 

 

(c) Linda Visman

This poem was first published in “I Remember When” an anthology compiled and edited by Julie Athanasiou, Legacy Books, November 2006.

Building Rooms as the Family Grows

March 8, 2015 at 1:01 pm | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Culture, Family, Family History, Gratitude, History, Memoir, Migration | 3 Comments
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I have been away, and set this post to be published on Monday the 9th March. It didn’t work for some reason. Now I am back home, here it is.

 

 

monday-memoir-badge

 

By the end of 1957, we’d been out of our four-berth caravan for about a year, and were living in the tiny three-roomed cottage Dad had bought and set up on our block of land. He had also built an extra room onto the back of it during that time, a bedroom for us four kids. At last Mum and Dad could have their own bedroom. But it was to be for only for a short time.

Mum’s brother and family had come from England to Adelaide in South Australia . My uncle visited us from there about 1957, and decided there was plenty of work for him in the Illawarra region of New South Wales and that he would leave his job in Adelaide and bring his family there. They would move in with us until they had a place of their own.

So Dad again had to get busy building a small two-roomed ‘garage’ next to our little cottage. Its front room served as a very basic kitchen, the back one as a bedroom, into which Aunty and Uncle moved with their young daughter. Their older son joined us four kids in the new bedroom. By that time, our total household amounted to ten people – and Mum was pregnant with twins.

This sharing of limited resources with extended family was not an unusual situation for the times. In the late 1940s and especially in the 1950s, Australia’s population grew very quickly, due to both post-war immigration and the baby boom. A great many migrants began their lives (once they had left the migrant camps to which many had come) with the purchase of a block of land and very little else. From there, they would build their own ‘garage’ that would house their family until they earned enough to build their own house.

When I say ‘build their own garage/house’, I mean that literally – many, if not most, did indeed build with their own hands. They couldn’t afford the cost of having it built by someone else. The 1950s was a time of great energy and enthusiasm, a reaction to the horrors of six years of war, a grasping of the freedom European migrants were offered in a new land. It was a time of economic growth, when most people were willing to put up with hard work, long hours and difficult living conditions in order to make a better life for themselves and their family than they would have had in post-war Europe.

Post war migrants arriving in Australia

Post war migrants arriving in Australia

In mid-1958, after a difficult birth where Mum came close to losing her life, our baby brother joined the family. His twin sister had, unfortunately, died at birth. It was about then, with their only two children in Australia, that Mum’s parents decided they would come too. When Grandma and Granddad arrived in late 1958, Mum and Dad moved out of their newly regained bedroom so her parents could have it, and went back to the night-and-day in the lounge room.

Dad was busy building rooms again. The kitchen, which in 2014 still had its original small cupboards, would be extended to a new outer door, and the little L-shaped cottage would become a rectangle, with two more bedrooms filling in the space. 1958 was a year of high rainfall in New South Wales and Dad was often rained off the building projects he worked on as builder’s labourer and concreter. During those down times, Dad worked on our house. He says he did more work on our house in those days than he did on his regular work, even in the rain.

Late 1958. The last two bedrooms are still under construction. My lovely grandmother stands at the doorway. On the grass are me (second from right) and my two sisters and our baby brother, with our two cousins. My older brother isn’t in the photo.

Late 1958. The last two bedrooms are still under construction. My lovely grandmother stands at the doorway. On the grass are me (second from right) and my two sisters and our baby brother, with our two cousins. My older brother isn’t in the photo.

Granddad had never helped my parents with a penny the whole time they were with us. Grandma slipped a few pounds to Mum from time to time when she could. She also gave us grandkids a shilling a week pocket money. We thought it a fortune, as we’d never had our own money before. In 1959 I think it was, my uncle bought a block of land close to the railway station with finance from Granddad. Granddad also helped to finance the building of a house there. Once it was completed, my uncle, aunt and cousins, and my grandparents too, moved in. At last, our family of seven had our home to ourselves.

For us kids, life was pretty good back then. We didn’t have much in the way of toys and possessions, but we had fresh air, plenty of room to play, lots of interesting places to investigate, and few worries, apart from our schooling and household chores. However, when I see the burdens my parents carried, I realise how difficult it must have been for them. I also believe it made us all stronger, both individually and as a family. Our parents gave us five kids a good start in many ways and we had much to be grateful for.

(c) Linda Visman

Getting into a Blogging Routine

January 11, 2015 at 10:39 pm | Posted in blogging, Discipline, Writing | 5 Comments
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My friend, also named  Linda, blogs at Queasy Peasy, and she is much more disciplined than I am. Her latest post, 2015 Blog Plan, has at last stirred me to action, and I intend to have a blogging plan of my own.

I actually devised a routine at the start of 2014, but I never even started it, let alone stayed with it. My plan was for three posts a week: Memoir Monday; Wildlife Wednesday; and Freestyle Friday.

I did manage to complete the whole of the April 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge, and intend to join that again for this year. I have also joined Cee’s Share Your World challenge, and have managed to post every week since I began it in August 2014.

So I have proved that I can rake up the discipline if I want to. After all, if my friend can do it working four days a week, then surely I can when I am retired! I just need now to make a marathon commitment, not just a sprint. And I need to be organised enough to include these blog posts into my already fairly busy schedule.

I intend to join Queasy Peasy in what she is calling her Monday for Memoir. I will continue to post weekly to Cee’s Share Your World. And I will do my best to post an entry each week on Australian flora and fauna (especially from my area) under Wednesday Wildlife.

Now I just need to work out how to make a banner for the memoir and wildlife posts. My friend did tell me how to do it a couple of months ago but I forget now. All right, where is that notebook I wrote the name of the program in?

Linda Visman

C is for Challenge

April 3, 2014 at 10:47 am | Posted in Family, Family History, Mental Health, Ways of Living | 24 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

Warning sign -challenges ahead

Dad was always up for a challenge. Tell him he wasn’t up to doing something and he would make sure he did it, just to show he could.

In 1925, Dad turned four. During that year, he contracted pneumonia in both lungs and became gravely ill. He was nursed at home by his mother, there being limited hospital facilities at that time.

Sick child& teddy

One day, two of his aunts visited the bedroom where he lay. When they left, Dad heard one of them say to his mother,

“Oh Hannah, pray for the Lord to take him”.

When they left, his mother returned and knelt beside Dad’s bed. He felt a tear fall on his hand and looked up at his mother.

“Don’t worry, Mother,” he said. “I’m not going to die.”

It took a couple of months, but Dad recovered and became a very active, energetic lad.

In 1954 we came to Australia, where we lived in the Illawarra area of  NSW. In 1961,  almost the last polio epidemic raged through the district. My little brother, then my older sister, then Dad contracted the disease. Dad was the worst affected and doctors wanted to put him in an iron lung so he could keep breathing.

Iron-Lung

He refused to let them and gained their agreement that, if he survived the night, he wouldn’t have to go into one.

“I wasn’t going to live the rest of my life in an iron lung,” he later told me. “What kind of life is that?”

Old wheelchair

He lived. However, a specialist told him he would never walk again and that he was to remain in bed or, at best, in a wheelchair. Dad wouldn’t have that. A friend drove him to an appointment with the specialist one day and Dad walked into his rooms on crutches. The doctor became angry and said, “If you won’t do as you’re told, I wash my hands of you”.

Dad went to another doctor, who organised a body brace and full leg caliper for him (both made of steel and leather) so he could walk more easily. A friend also made him steel crutches.

Dad made an amazing recovery, forcing his muscles to do what he wanted of them. He had been a concreting contractor in the building industry – heavy labour. Within less than two years, still in his steel supports,  he was at work making moulds for  concrete columns, balustrades and stepping stones. As he got stronger, he was making them from concrete. Soon,  could do without braces at all.

Balustrades

In 2008, at the age of 86, Dad suffered a perforated bowel during a colonoscopy. He was operated on, but acquired almost every infection possible, including septicaemia, peritonitis and bi-lateral pneumonia. He became incoherent and suffered at least two heart attacks. He’d never had any heart problems before, but the massive infections were too much.

Medical staff said he wouldn’t make it and our family maintained a bedside vigil day and night. Dad turned 87 during this time. One day, when we were all gathered around his bed – he was virtually comatose, my sister softly told him “You can go now if you like Dad. You can go and be with Mum.”

Somehow, that message got through. However, it didn’t have the effect my sister expected. Over the next week, Dad rallied. He amazed the doctors, one of whom called him “my miracle patient”.

“Nobody’s going to tell me I can go to your mum,” he told me later. “It’s not time for me to die yet. I’ve too much to do.”

Dad in rehab, 2 weeks after leaving Intensive Care.

Dad in rehab, 2 weeks after leaving Intensive Care.

Dad went on to rehab and then home, where he lived alone (with family help) for another five years. He fell one night as he was going to the bathroom and broke his hip. He died six weeks later, just six days before his 92nd birthday. He had tried to rise to this challenge too, positive as  always, but it was the final one, the one he couldn’t win.

He is my inspiration. Ernest Thompson, 1921-2013

 

How do you respond to challenges? Do you quail, or do you step up and meet them with determination? Do you have someone to whom you look up in times of personal challenge?

 

© Linda Visman 03.04.14

 

A is for Alphabet

April 1, 2014 at 9:02 pm | Posted in Family, Family History, History, Writing and Life | 8 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

I have joined the 2014 April A to Z Challenge. To complete the challenge, I must write 26 posts, each on a topic beginning with a letter of the alphabet, beginning on the 1st of April with A and ending on the 30th of April with Z. There are four Sundays in April, and these are ‘days off’, so the challenge fits well into the month. Here is my first post, and what topic would be more fitting that the alphabet?

Alphabet B&W Ravie

When I was still in the middle years of primary school, I heard my mother saying the alphabet backwards. I thought that was so amazing that I had to learn to do it too.

I can’t remember how long it took me to get it right and to be able to do it time after time, but it is something I have been able to do ever since.

Dad told me how he learned to do it when he was a young child too. He was visiting his aunt and uncle one day, and his uncle asked him if he could say his alphabet backwards, adding that every child should be able to do it. He showed Dad a shiny sixpence and told him that if he could come back and recite the backwards alphabet, he could have that sixpence.

Photo thanks to Wikihow

Photo thanks to Wikihow

In those days, the 1920s, sixpence was a lot of money, especially for a poor working man’s son. Highly motivated by the challenge, Dad spent the rest of the two hour visit to his aunt and uncle’s house teaching himself how to do it. Before he left to go home with his parents, Dad gleefully received the sixpence from his surprised uncle. He had met the challenge.

It might not be a big thing to say the alphabet backwards, but I am constantly surprised by how many people never even thought to learn how to do it. And I constantly surprise them by rattling it off in one breath.

Just as Dad met the challenge of learning to go backwards from Z to A, I intend to meet this challenge of writing a blog post for each letter, A to Z.

Photo thanks to Wikihow.

Photo thanks to Wikihow.

Can you say the alphabet backwards? Do you think it is an unusual skill?

 

© Linda Visman

Ben’s Challenge is popular with all ages

October 7, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Posted in Writing | Leave a comment
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There’s nothing nicer than hearing praise for a novel you have written – for the story, the setting, the characters, the writing itself. I am really happy to be receiving great comments from readers of all ages on Ben’s Challenge. I never expected to even write a novel, let alone have it prove so popular.

I wrote Ben’s Challenge for children and young adults, hoping they would enjoy a good story, and learn a little about the period and the area in which my own 10-11-year-old self lived (1957-9 rural Australia).

It is the story of a 13-year-old boy, Ben Kellerman, whose father is killed in a hit-and-run incident. Six months later, the police have been unable to discover who was driving the car that hit him. When Ben’s beloved bicycle is destroyed and the police cannot find that culprit either, Ben loses it.

He decides that he will find out the answers to both questions. He becomes close friends with Joe Musical, a Polish migrant, and together, the boys set out to investigate the mystery of Karl Kellerman’s death.

Some people prefer they desist in their efforts, but they carry on. Adventures, heart-ache, discoveries and some answers follow. Ben learns how to cope with bigotry, how to trust his mate and his adult friend, and how to be the male ‘adult’ of the family. But he begins to wonder if he and Joe can ever find the truth, when the police have been unable to.

Many readers have proved to be rather older than the age I had expected. They are the parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents of the age group I’d aimed for. Every one of these older readers has responded very positively to the novel. Now, I would really love to have some proper feedback from younger readers – more than the “I like it” variety that is all I have had so far.

Today, I did have an indirect response from a ten-year-old boy, via his mother. She said he is reading it and loving it. He takes the book to bed and reads some before going to sleep. I will ask her at some time in the future to get him to tell her if he liked it right through to the end, and why. And I will ask her to please let me know.

I wrote a book for children and young people, and it turns out to be popular with all age groups. That makes me feel good.

 

*** To purchase the printed book from Amazon, click on the book cover at the top of the page. It will take you to the information and sale page for Ben’s Challenge. ***

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