Love’s Labours

February 6, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Posted in Gardens, Health, Mental Health, Writing and Life | Leave a comment
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Pebbles in the River (of Life)

A double block on a decent slope.

A warm day after rain and a few hot days –

The grass is happy, and so are the weeds.

Time for a haircut with the motor mower

No ride-on here – an uphill battle

– and cross-cutting downhill.

An hour’s energetic work, then a rest.

Lunch, and then another hour’s work.

Dappled, dancing sunlight on the even lawns

A fine reward for a job done with a happy heart.

 

© Linda Visman Monday 6th February 2012

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Review of Ben’s Challenge

October 15, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Posted in Making History, Reading, Writing, Writing and Life | 3 Comments
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I mentioned that I had received two reviews of my novel, Ben’s Challenge. Here is the second one – and I am pleased that Marian was so honest in her assessment of the book:

Review of Ben’s Challenge by Linda Visman

I want at the outset to declare two things. I am a 50’s baby and I know the author. This provides me with a bit of a challenge.  I grew up on diet of meat and three veg, respect for the Queen, a quiet uncomfortable awe for the name Robert Menzies, church and Sunday school, 10 shillings in a card from grandma at birthdays, the rote learning of the names of the rivers of northern New South Wales, an uncomfortable struggle with the notion that girls couldn’t behave like boys, but a freedom to run and play with friends without adult supervision.  You behaved yourself because mum would invariably find out and then you’d be in for it.  Like many before me, I’m starting to feel that the past, even with its dark stories of abuse and betrayal, is tending to look a bit more simple and authentic than the present.

I’ve known Linda Visman since the early 80s and though it’s been a friendship marked by distance and other lives it is still a friendship built on affection and respect.  Usually, in the selfish consumption of fiction, the author per se is not considered. It is plot, character and good descriptive dialogue that keeps the interest. To not like a book when you have no affinity with the author is neither here nor there. When you do know them and they have written about a time that is etched into an affectionate part of memory, the simple process of reading becomes complicated. 

To be honest, I was afraid I wouldn’t like Ben’s Challenge. I was prepared to be disappointed by the writing, prepared for the possibility of poor dialogue, unconvincing characters, forced plot.  It was in fact a good read, and within two chapters I could let go of my doubts, relax and trust Linda Visman’s handle on the craft of good uncomplicated writing and simply fall into the story: its characters, its descriptive nature and of course the many things that consume the mind, body and summer days of Ben Kellerman. 

Bens Challenge is a number of things: a good mystery story, simply but effectively told, a journey into the language and mores of an Australia that is fast disappearing, a relevant and current examination of the emotions of children who, having faced the loss of a parent, now experience the uncomfortable realisation that mum or dad, the memory of whom is an emotional touchstone, can and probably will be replaced.

There were a few elements of the writing that caused a slight hesitation. In the initial stages I wasn’t sure as to whether the book was too heavily centred on the language and memory vignettes of the times- we all too well knew of teachers, usually men if you went to public school, nuns if you went to catholic school, who caned too hard and too often, but the ‘mystery aspect’ of the story soon became the focus of the story and Linda Visman builds it convincingly.

For me, it provided a wonderful excuse to take to the couch and just keep reading one wintry wet afternoon.  The resolution of the mystery surrounding the bike and the tone of his brother’s confession was a bit stylistically unsatisfactory and the story also ended a tad abruptly.

Ben had been challenged and had undergone a journey in which he had faced physical and emotional duress. He emerges at the end of the novel a stronger and more perceptive boy as a result and for me the closing of the book would have been enhanced with a more reflective focus.  But, as I have said, these are slight aspects of what is essentially an excellent book for children and for a ‘50’s baby’ to read and enjoy.

I have lent the book to an inquisitive 8 year old, who gets jokes and loves i-pads and digital technology. He also loves reading. His dad, also a child of the 50’s, is reading it with him at night. It will be interesting to see how Liam engages with Ben and his story, and how his dad responds to a setting which is very much a reflection of his own childhood. I’ll let you know.

Marian Grant

*** You can purchase a copy of the book in print form from Amazon by clicking on the book cover at the top of the page ***

Entitlement or Responsibility?

August 3, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Posted in Philosophy, Social Responsibility | 2 Comments
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The choice of TV stations and free-to-air programmes, as well as of pay TV, has certainly expanded considerably in the last couple of years. Then again, this is like many other aspects of our society. We have access to so much, and for such little cost, that it is almost, if not literally, obscene.

There are so many people in the world who struggle to keep body and soul together, or to have any kind of personal freedom. And yet most of us in western society have everything we need, and more, so easily and so cheaply. And it is usually based upon the exploitation of cheap, exploited, overseas labour in third-world countries.

We have also come to expect this as our right, and that is tragic for our greedy and selfish society.

We are not learning – or indeed, teaching our younger generation, that it is a good and positive thing to work for what you get. It should not be handed out on a damask-covered platter.

How will our young ones learn responsibility if they are given whatever they want? How will they even know the satisfaction and sense of achievement that comes with doing something for themselves?

How will they learn to exercise their imaginations if they are spoon-fed with computer games and movies and wii games, with instant communications and instant gratification, with advertising and political exploitation.

How can they stretch their creativity if they cannot make something from almost nothing, to fulfil their needs, or even for their entertainment?

I fear that there is coming a time when creativity will be stifled – if it has not already arrived. The exceptions will be those few who are given the opportunity to stretch themselves by caring and discerning parents, and those who have the strength of character to go their own way, against the pressures of conformity.

These are the ones who give us hope for a future that is not robotic or constrained by the bread and circuses of those who rule by giving the masses what they want.

We should hold back on giving our children what should be earned, and on allowing what they should produce from their own creativity.

 

© Linda Visman, August 2011

Rubbish!

February 23, 2010 at 5:03 am | Posted in Social Responsibility | 1 Comment
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I am disgusted by the amount of rubbish that’s thrown from passing cars in almost every part of Australia that I’ve lived in or visited. It doesn’t matter whether in town or country, city or outback, there are very few places that are rubbish free. Some places are much worse than others, and some people are much worse than others too.

Have you noticed all the fast food rubbish everywhere? The paper bags and wrappers, cardboard, plastic and foam cartons and drink cups that are strewn along the sides of the streets and roads? An inordinate number of them seem to originate from a popular take-away place that has well-known golden arches. Is there a message there somewhere? You even find trash strewn under cars, or placed beside where they were parked – left there when the diners drove off. Almost always, there are adequate bins a few feet away.

The glass and plastic bottles that gleam in the grass along the verges and in the brush are almost always from drinks based on either alcohol or caffeine. You can almost guarantee it. The same glass bottles are the ones you find smashed along public footpaths and parks, shopping centres and hotels. Someone has to clean them up. The cost adds to our taxes. Is there another message here? Is it only the taxpayers who care?

Calling on a sense of social responsibility doesn’t seem to work with many people. They seem to be proud tossers. So the rubbish collects, until crews in and around some towns and council areas pick it up and dispose of it. The rest of the country remains a tip.

I think a great source of labour for the clean-up gangs could be reasonably fit people on the dole. Work to clean up the place and they might not be such tossers. They might even feel they’ve earned something rather than having it handed to them.

There is also a scheme that has been proven to reduce the amount of rubbish tossed out. A five-cent refund on drink cans and bottles, extended a few years ago to cardboard cartons, has operated for over 20 years in South Australia. The initial cost of a drink is five cents more, but it hasn’t harmed sales. People buy as many drinks per capita as they do in other states. When I lived there for a number of years, the refund I received added up to a reasonable amount of pocket money, the saving an added bonus.

The roadsides in S.A. testify to the scheme’s success. In all areas, except very close to the borders with other states, they are relatively free of discarded drink containers. The habit of saving refundable containers to take to a recycler to reclaim the refund, instead of tossing them out any old where, seems to have extended to other areas too. You don’t see very much fast food or general rubbish lying about. Certainly nowhere near the amount you see in New South Wales and other parts of the country.

I cannot understand why other states won’t even trial this great refund scheme. Peter Garrett, Australia’s Federal Environment Minister, doesn’t want to introduce such a scheme nationally, either, saying it will disadvantage recyclers. What? Go to S.A., Mr Garrett.  Be open-minded, and see the difference the scheme makes.

© Linda Visman February 2010

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