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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Books!

January 28, 2014 at 5:07 pm | Posted in History, Publishing, Reading, Ways of Living, Writing and Life | 13 Comments
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stack of books 03   Most of the time, when I enter somebody’s home, I can immediately tell whether or not there are readers in the house.

There might be a book lying on a table or by a chair. There could be a bookshelf in the living room or a pile of books on the coffee table.

I know that anyone who comes into our home would know that we are dedicated readers, The crammed-full bookshelves around the walls, the books sitting on the coffee tables and the dining table, as well as tucked into nooks and crannies here and there would tell them.

I have never not had books in the house. I grew up with books and they became my delight and my escape. I am pleased to say that all our grown-up children also have books and they are passing that love onto our grandchildren.

One wall in my study

One wall in my study

In our house now, my husband and I have bookcases filled with books – lots of books – in every room but the bathroom. There are also boxes of books in our garage that we don’t have room for in the house. We have more books than we need, but I would never say there are more than we want.

stack of books 02I taught for some years in remote indigenous communities where books were foreign objects. You would never see a book in any of their homes. They had never been a part of the culture, because their culture was an oral one. But that oral culture has been breaking down for years.

stack of books 04One of my greatest delights was teaching the children to read. Another was helping the adults tell their stories and writing them down. We made books in class which the children illustrated. The children could then read them as well as listen to them, and they would not be lost amidst the tantalising enticements of television and movies.

Many years later, those children communicate with me and others through writing and reading. Some of them have travelled overseas to places they would not have known about but for their knowledge of reading.  Indeed, one person just today said how thankful she is to be able to read. I am sure that if I went into her home now, there would be at least a few books and magazines around. I am thankful for that.

Kindle-&books   The tremendous increase in electronic delivery of reading matter over the last couple of years has led, in some sections of the community, to a change in patterns of reading.

Many who once bought printed books now buy electronic books either instead of print or as well as. My husband and I buy both; digital books are very convenient for when we are travelling, though some types of books are still more suitable for print rather than digital format.

e-reader2

I have heard several people say they are getting rid of their print libraries and just having e-books that will no longer take up space, or “clutter” their homes. I can’t imagine not having print books. The feel, smell and delight in them cannot be replaced by a plastic screen as far as I am concerned.

However, it is almost inevitable (unless there is a major breakdown or change in the earth’s electrical environment) that most reading matter will eventually be delivered electronically.

When that happens, how will we be able to tell when we are entering the home of a book-lover?

(c) Linda Visman

Where do you stand on the print-digital spectrum in book formatting and reading? Do you prefer one over the other?

I Remember When …

August 2, 2013 at 9:34 pm | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Family, History, Society, Ways of Living | Leave a comment
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Prop clothesline

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.

milk cart

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 when you’re sitting to pick up the can?

Dunny 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 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

First published in “I Remember When” an anthology compiled and edited by Julie Athanasiou, Legacy Books, Melbourne, Victoria, November 2006.

Are We There Yet?

February 6, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Family, Nature, Tourism, Travel | 8 Comments
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When my children were youngsters, we travelled a lot. My husband was a teacher, and he never wanted to stay home during school holidays, always wanting to be somewhere else. So we visited relatives, went to lots of places around our state and beyond, and had experiences we would have missed were we to remain at home.

 You would think that at least one of our five sons would be an impatient traveller. Talk to anyone who has travelled with kids and they’ll almost always tell you they have one who, as soon as you’re out the driveway and onto the road, starts asking are we there yet?  Windmill &caravan Camooweal 1980

Lots of people prefer to reach their destination, rather than undertake the actual travel to get there. I know that, having travelled little before my marriage, it was the destination I had in mind. The drive – we always drove – was just the means of getting there, and I wanted it to be over as soon as possible.

 Most of our drives were in the countryside – we lived away from major towns. My husband was the driver on our long trips. Every time stopped for a break or to get petrol, I’d sit impatiently in the car. On the road, he seemed to look out of the side window more than watching where we were going. He’d see an interesting tree or rock along the way, glimpse an echidna or a goanna and just had to stop to look at it. I would remain in the car, fidgeting and getting more and more agitated, wishing he’d get back and drive on. The question that constantly ran through my mind was when will we ever get there?

When we started having children, the travelling didn’t stop; we just had more and more passengers. Then, of course, the baby needed to be changed and fed; the toddler/s needed a break from sitting or had to have a pit stop. We simply had to take breaks, so I learned to curb my impatience. I started to notice much more of what was going on around me.Holland boys NrQuirindi May 1982

 By the time we went on a four-month trip halfway around Australia with a caravan, four boys aged between four and nine and me pregnant with the fifth, I had discovered how much of interest I had missed by not wanting to stop along the way. This time, I was happy to take breaks, to go for walks, to investigate country museums and ruins, anthills and billabongs and side-tracks. I had learned to appreciate the journey to our destination.

 I noticed too that none of the boys ever asked, are we there yet? They had been travelling all their lives and took advantage of every stop we made to find out more about their environment, their history, the beauty and wildness of their country. They always enjoyed the journey just as much as – if not more than – the destination.Bill&boys1982Sydney

 My sons are now passing on that love of the journey to their own children. They don’t want them to miss the treasures that are there along the way. And indeed, very often, it is the journey that has more to offer us than the destination. Sometimes, we don’t want the journey to end. We don’t want to be there yet.

 What about you? Do you prefer to reach your destination as soon as possible, or do you relax and enjoy the journey?

 © Linda Visman 6th February 2013

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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