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

U is for Uniform

April 24, 2014 at 11:35 am | Posted in Family History, History, Society, War and Conflict, Ways of Living | 4 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

 

My grandfather's unit, 1915.

My grandfather’s unit, 1915.

Definition of Uniform: 1. Having one form… 2. A distinctive dress of uniform style, materials and colour worn by and identifying all the members of a group or organisation, esp, a military body, school, etc. (The Macquarie Dictionary).

There are very few people in Australia who have not worn a uniform at some time in their life. Almost all schools here have dress codes that include wearing a uniform – even if many students hate it and try to create variations.

My graduating high school class 1965.

My graduating high school class 1965.

Uniforms are worn to create a feeling of belonging to the group. The idea is to become identified with it to the extent that you will be loyalty, and give your best to it. Sporting teams are a perfect example of this, where every member must work together to get the best result. Wearing the team uniform illustrates their commitment to that.

We didn’t get colour photos then, and there was no way we could adapt our school uniform either. The uniform colours were: maroon tunics and blazers; white shirts; grey trousers for the boys; ties were maroon and gold stripes.

Young Small Schools Champs 1978My sons attended a one-teacher school – two of them for all of their primary school years. Each year, individual children were selected from the small schools in the region to play in one team to play soccer at the regional sports carnival. To create that sense of one-ness that’s needed in a team, the boys (of course it was boys then!) wore a common uniform.

 

Here are three of my sons on Anzac Day in 1984.

Here are three of my sons on Anzac Day in 1984.

Other groups also identify themselves with the uniform their members wear. Four of my sons belonged to the Boy Scouts.  With their troop they participated in the annual Anzac Day march, as well as other observances.

 

Even in individual sports, a uniform can indicate that a person is committed to that sport.

Rhee Tai kwon do

Rhee Tai kwon do

 

Of course, the most obvious uniforms are worn by police or military forces. The uniforms serve two main purposes: one is to identify their role within a in society (to uphold the law or to defend the country); secondly, to give cohesiveness and a sense of mutual support to that group. There are other reasons too, of course.

 

 

My paternal grandfather, British Army WWI

My paternal grandfather, British Army WWI

My maternal grandfather, Royal Navy WWI

My maternal grandfather, Royal Navy WWI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 My father, RAF WWII

My father, RAF WWII

My mother's brother, British Army WWII

My mother’s brother, British Army WWII

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How often have you chosen to, or had to, wear a uniform. Do you agree that uniforms have value; or do you see them as negating individuality?

 

© Linda Visman 24.04.2014  (446 words)

 

F is for Fighter Pilot

April 7, 2014 at 8:36 am | Posted in Family, Family History, History, Making History, Mental Health, Social Responsibility, War and Conflict | 18 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

It was 1938, when he was only 17, that my father, Ernest told Agnes (later to become his wife), “War’s coming and I’ll have to go.” They lived in England, had just started courting, and the situation in Europe, with Nazi Germany was not looking good.

In late 1939, soon after war broke out, Ernest tried to enlist. However he worked in a reserved occupation, engineering and weapons manufacture, so he was exempt, and even discouraged from, doing military service.

Home Guard Field Manual

So Ernest joined the Home Guard. After working a 12-hour shift at the engineering works, he would train with the local unit in the evenings. He also went regularly to the recruitment office in an effort to join up. Eventually, he was told that the only way he could enlist from a reserved occupation was to be accepted as aircrew.

world-war2-poster

In 1940, the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain led to a shortage of pilots, and that gave Ernest his chance. He applied yet again. This time, he was accepted into the RAF. He was mobilised in September 1941 and undertook basic training in England. Ernest was then sent to Canada to train as a pilot in the newly set up Empire Training Scheme.

RAF WWII hat badge

He returned to England as a fighter pilot with non-commissioned officer rank and was posted to 289 Army Co-operation Squadron, based mainly in Scotland. Ernie spent the next 3½ years flying a wide variety of single and twin-engine planes. Because of his flying skill, quick reflexes and ability to spot enemy fighters, and in spite of not being an officer, every C.O. he served under made him his Number 2 wingman.

WWII pilots wings

Among other planes, he flew Hawker Hurricanes, Typhoons and Tempests and the Vultee Vengeance. His missions included bomber intercepts and marine patrols. He searched out and attacked German submarines in the Irish Sea, and strafed German convoys and escort vessels along the north-western coast of Europe. As a member of 289 Squadron, he also flew various target-towing aircraft for the anti-aircraft gunners to practice their shooting.

RAF Pilots with their Hurricanes

In 1944, in the weeks before D-Day, Ernest flew Lysanders into German-occupied France to drop Allied spies. He flew at night, hedge-hopping to avoid detection by the Germans. He made six such trips, landing in isolated fields in the French countryside.

WestlandLysander

In July 1945 after V.E. Day, Ernest was granted a six-month compassionate discharge to look after his wife, who had been paralysed at the birth of their first child. During this period, he was not paid by the RAF, and had to work as a labourer for the local Council. He returned to the RAF in early February 1946 and served out his time in the south of England, piloting Vultee Vengeance aircraft towing targets for anti-aircraft gunners.

Defence of Britain medal

Defence of Britain medal

Throughout his service, Ernest rose through the ranks. Although often recommended for officer training, he always declined, as he hated the class distinction that went with it. At his discharge in June 1946, Ernest had attained the rank of Warrant Officer First Class, the highest non-commissioned rank in the RAF.

Agnes,Ern&Peter Thompson Jan.1946

                            Mum & Dad with their first born, 1945.

 

Do you have family who fought in WWII? Have you researched their story?

 

© Linda Visman 06.04.14 (549 words)

 

 

 

Rathmines, NSW

August 8, 2013 at 11:30 am | Posted in Australia, History, Tourism, Travel, War and Conflict, Ways of Living | 12 Comments
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We went to nearby Rathmines recently. It is just a few km along the shore from where we live, on the western shore of Lake Macquarie. We bought a coffee at the Bakery and took it to the park next to F Jetty. There are several parks and walking paths in and around the village.

There used to be an RAAF station at Rathmines, with a squadron of Catalina flying boats based there during World War II.

Rathmines RAAF Base c1943. F Jetty is in the bay below the top left-hand corner of the photo.

Rathmines RAAF Base c1943. F Jetty is in the bay below the top left-hand corner of the photo.

F Jetty was part of the station. It was used by the boats that carried supplies and equipment to the base and out to the moored “Black Cats”, as the black-painted Catalinas were known. This squadron operated up the east coast of Australia as far New Guinea. They were low and slow flying planes, and the dull black paint provided camouflage on their night flights.

Restored Black Cat coming in to land at Rathmines Catalina Festival 2012

Restored Black Cat coming in to land at Rathmines Catalina Festival 2012

Many of the former RAAF buildings are still there.

The former RAAF buildings have been transformed into more peaceful uses now. They include a band hall (former Sergeants’ Mess), a bowling club (the former Officers’ Mess), a recently-closed aged care facility (the former RAAF hospital); a Christadelphian camp (the former barracks, relocated & grouped in their present site).

Rathmines, 2012, Bottom left – Bowling Club; Group of buildings in centre –camp run by Christadelphians; Middle right – F Jetty; the grey and white areas between the camp buildings and the jetty is where the aeroplane maintenance sheds once were (grey) next to the hard stand (white), where the Cats came up out of the water to the shore.

Rathmines, 2012, Bottom left – Bowling Club; Group of buildings in centre –camp run by Christadelphians; Middle right – F Jetty; the grey and white areas between the camp buildings and the jetty is where the aeroplane maintenance sheds once were (grey) next to the hard stand (white), where the Cats came up out of the water to the shore.

Modern-day Rathmines is just one of the many pleasant lake-side towns that are now part of the City of Lake Macquarie. The city is made up of over ninety small communities that are situated around the extensive shores of the lake.

Lake Macquarie itself is the largest coastal salt water lake in Australia. It is also the largest permanent salt water lake in the southern hemisphere. It covers an area of 110 square kilometres (42.5 sq. miles), and has 174 km (108 miles) of foreshore. It is a wonderful location for all kinds of water-based activities – sailing; cruising; fishing; water skiing, etc, as well as bushwalking, the arts and many other activities.

Rathmines is just one of the places around the lake that I love to visit, and I am really pleased that I live by this wonderful body of water.

Do you have an area that really speaks to you? Where would you live if you could?

© Linda Visman
August 2013

Singing with someone special

June 18, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Family, History, War and Conflict | 4 Comments
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I shared a special two hours with Dad today. I went to pick him up and take him out for lunch. He doesn’t get out of the house much, being blind, deaf and not very strong. After all, he will be 91 in nine days.

My Dad, May 2012

As I drove down the freeway to Kiama, I faintly heard Dad singing. I listened, picked up the song – an oldie from his young days – and joined him singing it.

From that song, we went on to sing other oldies, all of which I knew too. We sang all the way to Kiama, and then, softly, we continued to sing together as we waited for our lunch to arrive. During one of those songs, tears came to Dad’s eyes and his voice broke. It was “I’m singing a song for the old folk”. Dad was remembering his dearly loved parents, who died when I was very young, and I was remembering my mother

After lunch, we drove home through beautiful green dairy country instead of on the freeway. As I drove fairly slowly along the back roads (virtually no traffic), we sang again. Dad sang the same songs over and over. He has Alzheimers and his short-term memory is exceedingly poor, so he couldn’t remember he’d already sung them. But he was happy and, to me, it mattered not at all. I sang along with him every time as if it were a new song.

He seems to remember these times when we share the past more than he does the everyday present moments, and they mean a lot to him. It was a very special time for me too. I felt privileged that I could share it with him.

Mum & Dad about 1944

When we arrived back at Dad’s home (he lives at home alone, as my mother died eighteen years ago this week), we chatted about singing, and how it raises the spirits and unites people in a special way. He said how wonderful it was as a boy and young man to hear his father’s lovely tenor singing his favourite songs from the music hall shows and the radio.

Dad has always loved singing and, in the sergeants’ mess, when he served in the Royal Air Force in WWII, he would sometimes start up a song. Others would join in and soon, thirty or more men would be singing together – popular and humorous war songs, even love songs. Dad said it was a very moving and unifying experience.

When they’d sung themselves out, one of Dad’s mates would say, “Thommo, you can’t sing to save your life, but you really get us all going”.

I remember when I was a child that we would sing together when our extended family got together, both in England and in Australia. We would sing for ages, and this is why I know so many songs from the 1930s and 40s. When we went driving in the Australian countryside in our old car, we often sang too.

Mum often had the local radio on when we were kids, so we also picked up a variety of songs from the 1950s. And even though the songs from the 60s were those of MY generation, she loved many of them too.

Later in my life, there were times when I hardly ever sang. They were the down times, when life wasn’t easy, for various reasons. Then I met my second husband. He loves to hear me sing, even though I do not have a good voice. (None of my paternal father’s offspring and descendants have inherited his lovely singing voice).

Now, I love to sing again and, when I do, I am uplifted and strengthened.

But singing with Dad is something special, remembering parents, grandparents and mates, and good times once shared, all now gone except in our memory.

 

© Linda Visman

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