A photograph from the Inspirational bin – 33

This is countryside somewhere inside the Lamington National Park in Queensland. It was one of those days where the rain come and went…

We were spending a week there, in the middle of nowhere on a working macadamia farm in a cottage, one of four, recuperating from a long exhausting lockdown.

It was not cold, and we were able to sit out of the verandah for most of the day, watching the rain come and pass over on its way up the valley, listing to the gentle pitter-patter of the rain on the roof and nearby leaves.

But as for inspiration:

This would be the ideal setting for a story about life, failed romance, or a couple looking to find what it was they lost.

It could be a story about recovering from a breakdown, or a tragic loss, to be anywhere else but in the middle of dealing with the constant reminders of what they had.

It could be a safe house, and as we all know, safe houses in stories are rarely safe houses, where it is given away by someone inside the program, or the person who it’s assigned to give it away because they can’t do as they’re supposed to; lay low.

Then there’s camping, the great outdoors, for someone who absolutely hates being outdoors, or those who go hunting, and sometimes become the hunted.

Oh, and watch out for the bears!

A photograph from the Inspirational bin – 33

This is countryside somewhere inside the Lamington National Park in Queensland. It was one of those days where the rain come and went…

We were spending a week there, in the middle of nowhere on a working macadamia farm in a cottage, one of four, recuperating from a long exhausting lockdown.

It was not cold, and we were able to sit out of the verandah for most of the day, watching the rain come and pass over on its way up the valley, listing to the gentle pitter-patter of the rain on the roof and nearby leaves.

But as for inspiration:

This would be the ideal setting for a story about life, failed romance, or a couple looking to find what it was they lost.

It could be a story about recovering from a breakdown, or a tragic loss, to be anywhere else but in the middle of dealing with the constant reminders of what they had.

It could be a safe house, and as we all know, safe houses in stories are rarely safe houses, where it is given away by someone inside the program, or the person who it’s assigned to give it away because they can’t do as they’re supposed to; lay low.

Then there’s camping, the great outdoors, for someone who absolutely hates being outdoors, or those who go hunting, and sometimes become the hunted.

Oh, and watch out for the bears!

I have to stop thinking…

Have you ever wondered what you might have been back in the 1700s, or the 1800s in England, or whatever country you reside.

I live in Australia, so I suspect I would be a convict or the descendant of a convict. Certainly in those past years, there is nothing to suggest that I would have been much else, based on the fact I used to be a tradesman, and later a computer programmer, only one of which existed back then.

In England I have often imagined what it would be like for the underclasses, and very definitely where I;pd finish up. A servant maybe, like a stable boy or footman, or an agricultural worker before the industrial resolution, or a coal miner after it. Poor people it seemed had no prospects.

In the 1900s, my time on earth, and before the computer era, I trained in a trade school, doing woodwork, machine shop practise, and sheet metal. There was also farming. For the select few there was Accounting and business studies, but to be a clerk you had to go to a different school.

My family couldn’t afford it.

When I left school, as soon as I could, and therefore without the benefit of a good education, my prospects for work didn’t amount to much, and among my first jobs was mail sorter, telegram delivery boy, a packer for a book wholesaler, an odd job boy in an abattoir, and later a clerk.

Perhaps then I formed an idea that one day I might be a writer. I certainly had a go, but never did anything with it. I guess, even then, I knew my limitations borne from what I perceived was my station in life.

What did I want to do though? It didn’t matter. People from our social strata couldn’t afford university fees so I was never going to get a tertiary education. That just about ruled out everything.

So what happpened to change all that?

Reading.

From as young as I could, I read. Not only stories about people who lived so very different lives to me, but reference books about everything. It gave me an understanding of what it might be like to be something else, then gave me the impetus to actually apply for what I would call ‘a real job’.

Whether I could do it or not was irrelevant. I just wanted the chance.

It took a wile but then someone gave me that chance. That door was prised open just a little, enugh for me to get a foot in.

I had several tenets to abide by, don’t speak unless your spoken to, respect your elders, and don’t say anything unless it’s relevant.

First job was mail boy under a very crotchety old man who thought I was a waste of space. I learned everything he knew, listened to everything he said, and did everything I was told, better than everyone else.

I moved up to shipping clerk, creating manifests for ships cargo. It was the golden age just before computers, the days of the mainframes that had the computing power of an IBM XT.

They fascinated me.

My next job was for a new company, working for a mining and shipping company, as a distribution clerk maintaining a shipping timetable. That led to a role in communications, the days of telexes and internal couriers and memos, and memorandums for board meetings.

It wasn’t heady stuff, but I was in management, learned communications, and understood accounting.

When I left there, I became a computer programmers. It was dumb luck, my brother in law was an insurance salesman, created listings of investment outcomes using insurance products, and his individualised reports used to take in a week or so, restricting the number of clients he had.

This was the days of the first Apples, and IBM’s. I had a small personal computer, and told him I could create a program to work out his calculations in seconds not days, and he gave me the opportunity.

The rest is history.

So, it makes me wonder had I been back in those 1700s and 1800s, whether or not I may have started small, and made something of myself. A lord of the manor I would not be, but perhaps something more comfortable than a coal miner maybe.

I guess I’ll never know.

I have to stop thinking…

Have you ever wondered what you might have been back in the 1700s, or the 1800s in England, or whatever country you reside.

I live in Australia, so I suspect I would be a convict or the descendant of a convict. Certainly in those past years, there is nothing to suggest that I would have been much else, based on the fact I used to be a tradesman, and later a computer programmer, only one of which existed back then.

In England I have often imagined what it would be like for the underclasses, and very definitely where I;pd finish up. A servant maybe, like a stable boy or footman, or an agricultural worker before the industrial resolution, or a coal miner after it. Poor people it seemed had no prospects.

In the 1900s, my time on earth, and before the computer era, I trained in a trade school, doing woodwork, machine shop practise, and sheet metal. There was also farming. For the select few there was Accounting and business studies, but to be a clerk you had to go to a different school.

My family couldn’t afford it.

When I left school, as soon as I could, and therefore without the benefit of a good education, my prospects for work didn’t amount to much, and among my first jobs was mail sorter, telegram delivery boy, a packer for a book wholesaler, an odd job boy in an abattoir, and later a clerk.

Perhaps then I formed an idea that one day I might be a writer. I certainly had a go, but never did anything with it. I guess, even then, I knew my limitations borne from what I perceived was my station in life.

What did I want to do though? It didn’t matter. People from our social strata couldn’t afford university fees so I was never going to get a tertiary education. That just about ruled out everything.

So what happpened to change all that?

Reading.

From as young as I could, I read. Not only stories about people who lived so very different lives to me, but reference books about everything. It gave me an understanding of what it might be like to be something else, then gave me the impetus to actually apply for what I would call ‘a real job’.

Whether I could do it or not was irrelevant. I just wanted the chance.

It took a wile but then someone gave me that chance. That door was prised open just a little, enugh for me to get a foot in.

I had several tenets to abide by, don’t speak unless your spoken to, respect your elders, and don’t say anything unless it’s relevant.

First job was mail boy under a very crotchety old man who thought I was a waste of space. I learned everything he knew, listened to everything he said, and did everything I was told, better than everyone else.

I moved up to shipping clerk, creating manifests for ships cargo. It was the golden age just before computers, the days of the mainframes that had the computing power of an IBM XT.

They fascinated me.

My next job was for a new company, working for a mining and shipping company, as a distribution clerk maintaining a shipping timetable. That led to a role in communications, the days of telexes and internal couriers and memos, and memorandums for board meetings.

It wasn’t heady stuff, but I was in management, learned communications, and understood accounting.

When I left there, I became a computer programmers. It was dumb luck, my brother in law was an insurance salesman, created listings of investment outcomes using insurance products, and his individualised reports used to take in a week or so, restricting the number of clients he had.

This was the days of the first Apples, and IBM’s. I had a small personal computer, and told him I could create a program to work out his calculations in seconds not days, and he gave me the opportunity.

The rest is history.

So, it makes me wonder had I been back in those 1700s and 1800s, whether or not I may have started small, and made something of myself. A lord of the manor I would not be, but perhaps something more comfortable than a coal miner maybe.

I guess I’ll never know.

What makes a character – 1 – The beginnings of a writer

My characters are many, a diverse group of people that are based on people I know, people I’ve known, people I’ve met, or seen, or interacted with. Some of them make up a single character with several traits.

Some are like me, but most are people I would have like to have been rather than the dull as ditchwater person I am. No-one wants to read about dull people, they want someone larger than life, someone who can do the impossible, or at the very least, the improbably.

I’ve always wanted to be someone else. For a long time I never liked who I was, and, to a certain extent, I still don’t. That was a result of the early stages of my life, those years the form who we are going to be.

And, had you asked me 50 years ago whether I would be the person I am now, I’d probably laugh and say it would be impossible. Yet here I am, and it’s nothing like what I thought I would be.

But, for now, lets look at the traits that live in some of my characterisations.

For instance, to understand the influences people have on us, I use my father, a man always voted for a particular political party, and that alone was an influence on who I would vote for when I got old enough, after listening for years his reasons for hating the opposition. For years he aired his grievances, which, at the time, he believed were real and caused by that opposition party.

Politics can be very polarising. There’s also a saying, throw enough mud, some of it sticks. That, of course applied to a great many things. Another was only the rich could afford a University education, and for years I believed that. It was, he said, how the rich kept their influence over, and suppress the poor.

It was a similar case with religion, another polarising topic, and my family were Protestants and therefore didn’t like other religions such as Catholics. It didn’t strike me till much later in life why this was so. But as a child we were sent to Sunday school and, irregularly, to church services of the Presbyterian faith.

Then there were our relatives, none of whom we ever really met. I knew we had relatives, my fathers parents because for a while we used to visit them every month or so where my father would cut their lawn, and my mother had a mother, he father had died not long after I’d been born.

My father had a lot of brothers and a sister. My mother had a brother and a sister. She also had an aunt that I’m sure I met several times before she died. But these are fleeting memories. We saw my father’s brothers and sister rarely, so rarely now I don’t remember them. The same applied to my mother’s sister, of whom I got the impression she was immensely jealous of.

I never understood why. Not then, any way.

But as for my mother’s mother, our grandmother, she was a likable soul who lived in the country, and she never came to see us, we went to see her, but those visits were long after we stopped seeing my father’s parents.

At the time we were young, she lived in the country, and we had to drive there which took time we didn’t seem to have.

Later in my pre teens my brother and I used to stay at her house for a week or two during the school holidays. It was a very large house on a large block, very old with high ceilings and large rooms, and we always had lots to eat, and delicious food at that, and we couldn’t understand why we didn’t have the same with our parents.

Of course there was a reason for that too, but this only became clear a few years ago when my brother started collecting information for a family history. My brother hunted down all of the relatives that were still alive and began to learn why we never saw them. It was not because of them, but because of my parents.

One stark revelation was that nearly all of them were better off than we were.

So here was my early childhood in equally stark reality.

It would be easy to blame parents for everything, but that’s the easy way out, and probably what every child who felt they were deprived of a proper life would do. More than likely, for years, that’s exactly how I felt, and, equally, the reason why I withdrew into a whole different world, or worlds, of my own.

I might not have put words on paper, but in my mind stories were beginning and evolving, stories that I told others to hide what I really was, and what I felt.

What makes a location – 1 – The places around me

When you are so young, you don’t know much about the world, and the people in it. This is learned from your parents, those first people in your life and who teach you the fundamentals, according to their beliefs.

It is the reason why a lot of children who when they eventually begin interacting with others have some horrendous traits, difficulty with language, or the use of swear words, and the treatment of others. If you’re a boy and your father drinks, smokes, swears incessantly, and beats his wife and children, then that’s what the child will do.

Similarly if you are just there, and no one treats you with the care that a child needs, then they become introverted and quiet. You listen and don’t speak, you observe, and wonder what else there is than this life that you have.

When you leave the house, and begin to interact with others, that sheltered life, and lack of interaction with relatives and others leaves you alone and miserable in a world you know little about and are totally unprepared for.

It’s where you start making a different world, one you can cope with, one that you are more than just nothing in. There is television, but it’s not something you can see all the time, and viewing was limited to what parents watch. There’s radio, but it’s from a world outside your own. There are other people you meet, but they might as well come from another planet so different they are from you.

But there are moments when things are different.

Like going to stay at my grandmothers place in the country.

It became a castle. A house with many rooms. A house that was old, made of bricks, had high ceilings, worn carpets, and holes in the floor. A small kitchen with a wood stove. A separate room to eat in, where the food served was completely different to what we had at home.

A large house on a large block of land, next to a church.

A place where there was a garage, rusting hulks of old cars, a large workshop that had all manner of tools and wood lying around, dusty and cobwebbed from years of no use. A whole day could be spent there just finding new and old things, each of which had a story of their own.

A block that had a huge garden, and overgrown fernery, and a huge overgrown water fountain, with paths going off in all directions. And a front garden that would rival the best of any rose garden.

In short, it was a place a child with an active imagination, could turn into anything.

I stayed there with my brother. I doubt he had the awe and wonder that I had, but he too was an explorer and between us we hacked away at the overgrowth, looking for and restoring parts of the rose garden and the fountain.

I remember it well. We never came in the front door. No one did because the path to the front verandah was blocked by overgrowth. But from inside, the entrance hall was huge with ornate wooden panelling.

One one side was my grandmothers bedroom, on the other, the lounge room, with a worn carpet square that covered nearly the whole wooden floor, and huge lounge chairs with wide arms, on castors.

Further across was a huge dining table, and an access through to the kitchen. We never used the dining table because it was covered in crockery, stuff my grandmother won when she went to lawn bowls.

Through an archway to the rest of the house, a huge hallway, where down one side were the bedrooms, four of them, and a bathroom at the end on the other side, and a door that led to the back porch.

THe first room was a storeroom filled with old stuff.

The second room was where we stayed.

The third was empty, and the fourth bedroom was when my mother’s brother, our uncle lived.

In this hall was a piano. It was a hall large enough to hold a dance in, only that would be difficult given that parts of the floor had rotted, and there was no sneaking about because the floorboards creaked.

It was, to me, a house with loads of character.

It was fitting then that it became the inspiration for a castle, and a life that was so very different to mine.

What makes a character – 1 – The beginnings of a writer

My characters are many, a diverse group of people that are based on people I know, people I’ve known, people I’ve met, or seen, or interacted with. Some of them make up a single character with several traits.

Some are like me, but most are people I would have like to have been rather than the dull as ditchwater person I am. No-one wants to read about dull people, they want someone larger than life, someone who can do the impossible, or at the very least, the improbably.

I’ve always wanted to be someone else. For a long time I never liked who I was, and, to a certain extent, I still don’t. That was a result of the early stages of my life, those years the form who we are going to be.

And, had you asked me 50 years ago whether I would be the person I am now, I’d probably laugh and say it would be impossible. Yet here I am, and it’s nothing like what I thought I would be.

But, for now, lets look at the traits that live in some of my characterisations.

For instance, to understand the influences people have on us, I use my father, a man always voted for a particular political party, and that alone was an influence on who I would vote for when I got old enough, after listening for years his reasons for hating the opposition. For years he aired his grievances, which, at the time, he believed were real and caused by that opposition party.

Politics can be very polarising. There’s also a saying, throw enough mud, some of it sticks. That, of course applied to a great many things. Another was only the rich could afford a University education, and for years I believed that. It was, he said, how the rich kept their influence over, and suppress the poor.

It was a similar case with religion, another polarising topic, and my family were Protestants and therefore didn’t like other religions such as Catholics. It didn’t strike me till much later in life why this was so. But as a child we were sent to Sunday school and, irregularly, to church services of the Presbyterian faith.

Then there were our relatives, none of whom we ever really met. I knew we had relatives, my fathers parents because for a while we used to visit them every month or so where my father would cut their lawn, and my mother had a mother, he father had died not long after I’d been born.

My father had a lot of brothers and a sister. My mother had a brother and a sister. She also had an aunt that I’m sure I met several times before she died. But these are fleeting memories. We saw my father’s brothers and sister rarely, so rarely now I don’t remember them. The same applied to my mother’s sister, of whom I got the impression she was immensely jealous of.

I never understood why. Not then, any way.

But as for my mother’s mother, our grandmother, she was a likable soul who lived in the country, and she never came to see us, we went to see her, but those visits were long after we stopped seeing my father’s parents.

At the time we were young, she lived in the country, and we had to drive there which took time we didn’t seem to have.

Later in my pre teens my brother and I used to stay at her house for a week or two during the school holidays. It was a very large house on a large block, very old with high ceilings and large rooms, and we always had lots to eat, and delicious food at that, and we couldn’t understand why we didn’t have the same with our parents.

Of course there was a reason for that too, but this only became clear a few years ago when my brother started collecting information for a family history. My brother hunted down all of the relatives that were still alive and began to learn why we never saw them. It was not because of them, but because of my parents.

One stark revelation was that nearly all of them were better off than we were.

So here was my early childhood in equally stark reality.

It would be easy to blame parents for everything, but that’s the easy way out, and probably what every child who felt they were deprived of a proper life would do. More than likely, for years, that’s exactly how I felt, and, equally, the reason why I withdrew into a whole different world, or worlds, of my own.

I might not have put words on paper, but in my mind stories were beginning and evolving, stories that I told others to hide what I really was, and what I felt.

What makes a location – 1 – The places around me

When you are so young, you don’t know much about the world, and the people in it. This is learned from your parents, those first people in your life and who teach you the fundamentals, according to their beliefs.

It is the reason why a lot of children who when they eventually begin interacting with others have some horrendous traits, difficulty with language, or the use of swear words, and the treatment of others. If you’re a boy and your father drinks, smokes, swears incessantly, and beats his wife and children, then that’s what the child will do.

Similarly if you are just there, and no one treats you with the care that a child needs, then they become introverted and quiet. You listen and don’t speak, you observe, and wonder what else there is than this life that you have.

When you leave the house, and begin to interact with others, that sheltered life, and lack of interaction with relatives and others leaves you alone and miserable in a world you know little about and are totally unprepared for.

It’s where you start making a different world, one you can cope with, one that you are more than just nothing in. There is television, but it’s not something you can see all the time, and viewing was limited to what parents watch. There’s radio, but it’s from a world outside your own. There are other people you meet, but they might as well come from another planet so different they are from you.

But there are moments when things are different.

Like going to stay at my grandmothers place in the country.

It became a castle. A house with many rooms. A house that was old, made of bricks, had high ceilings, worn carpets, and holes in the floor. A small kitchen with a wood stove. A separate room to eat in, where the food served was completely different to what we had at home.

A large house on a large block of land, next to a church.

A place where there was a garage, rusting hulks of old cars, a large workshop that had all manner of tools and wood lying around, dusty and cobwebbed from years of no use. A whole day could be spent there just finding new and old things, each of which had a story of their own.

A block that had a huge garden, and overgrown fernery, and a huge overgrown water fountain, with paths going off in all directions. And a front garden that would rival the best of any rose garden.

In short, it was a place a child with an active imagination, could turn into anything.

I stayed there with my brother. I doubt he had the awe and wonder that I had, but he too was an explorer and between us we hacked away at the overgrowth, looking for and restoring parts of the rose garden and the fountain.

I remember it well. We never came in the front door. No one did because the path to the front verandah was blocked by overgrowth. But from inside, the entrance hall was huge with ornate wooden panelling.

One one side was my grandmothers bedroom, on the other, the lounge room, with a worn carpet square that covered nearly the whole wooden floor, and huge lounge chairs with wide arms, on castors.

Further across was a huge dining table, and an access through to the kitchen. We never used the dining table because it was covered in crockery, stuff my grandmother won when she went to lawn bowls.

Through an archway to the rest of the house, a huge hallway, where down one side were the bedrooms, four of them, and a bathroom at the end on the other side, and a door that led to the back porch.

THe first room was a storeroom filled with old stuff.

The second room was where we stayed.

The third was empty, and the fourth bedroom was when my mother’s brother, our uncle lived.

In this hall was a piano. It was a hall large enough to hold a dance in, only that would be difficult given that parts of the floor had rotted, and there was no sneaking about because the floorboards creaked.

It was, to me, a house with loads of character.

It was fitting then that it became the inspiration for a castle, and a life that was so very different to mine.

You learn something new every day (2)

I got a call this morning from my brother who has been delving into the places we have lived over the years, including those before we were born.

My recollection, hazy at best, is that my father’s parents lived in Camberwell, a suburb of Melbourne, and the boys, those that survived the war, lived there too. He had three brothers, I think, and a sister. From what I’ve read, his older brother was a sensible chap and the peacemaker between him and his parents.

Later one of his brothers went to Sydney, his sister lived among orchards our Ringwood way, and another, much later, moved to Queensland. We very rarely, if ever, saw them, and the last time I did with most in one place, was after my Grandmother died. I do remember Dora, the site, visiting us once, and being young at the time, she seemed a very forbidding woman.

But, this is about where they lived.

My father, presumably before and immediately after the war, at home, and my mother at her home in Pakenham. There her father ran a service station and motor mechanic shop and was well known. Their house, at the time, was built over the road, just a short walk from home to work. The place, the first time I saw it, was a mechanics dream, with old cars and car parts outside and inside garages, and a woodworking shop with every tool imaginable.

Once the place had very elegant gardens, but by the time I got to stay there, in the 1960s, it was all overgrown, and the house was in disrepair. My mother’s brother lived there with my grandmother, and he was a fearsome, huge man who said little. All I knew about him was that, a) he was the one who found his father after he had killed himself, b) he liked fishing and went to a place called Corinella, and c) he was a mechanic like his father.

So, at some point in 1948, my father must have up and left, perhaps after an argument with his parents, and moved to Keiwa House, Bogong, where the Snowy River Hydro-Electric Scheme was being built, as a projectionist, bringing films to the workers in Town Halls.

As I’ve said, my mother stayed in a boarding house for ladies during the week and went home on weekends. I have the first letter that my father wrote to her and references the fact he went calling on her, and she was not there. We’ll never know what she thought, but there’s a second letter, after she wrote back, so a friendship was struck. He told her, almost in minute detail, what he was doing, and presumably, she told him about hers.

A year later, they married.

Now it gets interesting. We both thought that their first house, after getting married was in Carrum. It wasn’t. In the pile of letters were references to the family staying in a rented flat in Camberwell.

Sometime after that, there is a contract for a war service loan in relation to a property in Carrum, which turns out to be the first house they lived in, and where my brother, born in 1950) lived, and where I lived after I was born in 1953. I have interesting if vague memories of this house, and of the people who lived behind us because we could climb through the fence into their property. We knew them during, and after living in Carrum.

Now, today, some interesting new facts came to light about the Carrum house. We always assumed we owned it, but it seems that we didn’t. A copy of the title for that property never had the name Heath on it, so did we rent it? More information is required, and we need to dig deeper. Let’s hope there are no skeletons there.

And something else came out of a discussion with the daughter of my mothers sister, that it was believed my mother’s parents bought them a house in Chelsea, but my father, apparently, refused to live in it and sold it.

OK, I never claimed that my father was the sort that might have accepted charity, so perhaps in a moment of madness, he lost the plot. The question is, what happened to the money?
Recycle bin(0)Empty

You learn something new every day (1)

And it’s not necessarily something that might be good. To be honest, I didn’t know what to think, but in a strange sort of way it put a few things into perspective.

My brother and I have been delving into the family history, or at least my brother is throwing everything at it, and I’m along for the ride.

I did have a trove of stuff that we found when cleaning out my parent’s house when they moved into aged care, and at the time I didn’t think much of it. It was more about getting them settled than figuring out what was kept.

Now, four or so years later, and having finally received an interim output of the family tree, it’s not so much the forebears that interested me, as it was my parents.

It seems that our looking at our immediate family’s potted lives is like walking through a minefield, riddled with contradictions, rumors, and anecdotal evidence that doesn’t, for the moment, have any hard evidence to back it up. Or at least some have, but that’s not the interesting part.

So, picture this. The extent of my knowledge of my immediate family was that my father is Australian, his mother English, and I’m a second-generation Australian with an English grandparent. It doesn’t sound much, but not so long ago I could have applied for and got an English passport and had dual nationality. Unfortunately, that cannot happen anymore, you have to be one or the other.

My mother’s mother was of English descent and her husband of German descent. It was understood that my grandfather on this side died not long after I was born, though for a long time we were never told how. Only recently it came to light that he had committed suicide, and my brother has a copy of the suicide note he wrote. Morbid, eh? It turns out he thought he had cancer, but didn’t and mistakenly ended his life thinking he might have been a burden on my grandmother.

But now we started digging, getting dates of birth, easy, dates of death, easy, marriage certificates, and parents’ names for this limited dip into history, relatively simple.

But the story, the real aspects of genealogy, is where they went to school, their first job, what the did in the war, that fascinating the story of their lives at different times, that’s where I’m more interested. My brother has the facts, I want to give them a story entwining those facts.

Something that adds some flesh to the story is letters.

Another recent addition to the pile of family documents are the letters between my mother and father before they were married, and the fact my mother had another boyfriend, something we never knew until the great clean up. I have those letters, or some of them too.

Those letters, from him, unfortunately, we don’t have hers, are fascinating, as are those from my father. There is no indication of why there was a breakup with the first boyfriend, but I did learn that my father had gone to an introduction agent by the name of Mrs. J Phillips who gave him her name. What factors had led him down this path?

It was, to me, very Dolly Levi-ish.

I discovered my father worked as a projectionist at the Snowy River hydro-electric project after the war., around 1948. He had spoken of showing pictures at the Athenaeum Theatre in Flinders Street, and the King’s Theatre in Melbourne, but not exactly when, which accounted for his amazing knowledge of Hollywood movie stars. It was, however, as much as he had shared for a long time.

I also discovered that he was in Perth, Western Australia immediately after the war, and then went overseas to England by ship 13th August 1947, arriving in London on 12th September, and stayed at Middlesex with relatives.

Ok, now it gets a little weird because when in Bedfordshire he became engaged to an English girl that he had (apparently) known for 10 years. How this came to pass is still a mystery awaiting an answer. The wedding was supposed to be on 21st December 1947 but never happened, because the marriage was forbidden by her parents because they did not want their daughter to move to Australia, and equally forbidden by his parents because she was Catholic.

Yes. Religion was a breaking point in those days because he was a protestant. He returned, perhaps heartbroken, a year after he left, in April 1948.

I found that for a period of two years there would be enough speculative material to fuel a very lively account of their lives, and particularly his.

My mother, by the way, spent the war years attending Dandenong High School, a steam train ride down from Pakenham to Dandenong. After that, she gained employment in Melbourne, and spend the weekdays at a Ladies Boarding House called Chalmers Hall, in Parliament Place, and going home to Pakenham on the weekends. From a note or two, it seems she was something of a ‘wild’ child who craved doing something with her evenings other than ‘staying in’, with references to her going out with her friends.

My father confessed that he was the family’s black sheep, that he didn’t get along with any of the family, and which was why he was never home and always traveling. He wrote, in one letter of October 1948, that when he got into an argument he got mad and walked out on them, and came back when calm had returned. I assume that meant it might take days, weeks, or even months for the dist to settle.

There were disputes with my father with both his brothers and his parents over marrying my mother, and there were problems between my mother and her parents, to the extent they might not attend the wedding. For a few months of tense silence, there might not have been a wedding at all, but eventually, this happened at Trinity Church, Camberwell, on the 28th of June, 1949.

Wow! It shows that illusions of what might have been their happy day turning out to be moments of high dudgeon. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall.

I still have no idea what split her and the original boyfriend, a man she’d known since she was 14, and was from her hometown area, Pakenham. It might have been something she said because there are indications on one of two draft letters that she was prone to speaking her mind, and had a temper which would not have helped in using discretion. I’m guessing a few years of war would make a man lose interest in a high minded, and perhaps a sharp-tongued woman. I suspect we’ll never know.

She is now 93 and has Alzheimer’s and dementia, and unlikely to remember back then.

Similarly, my father is 97 and I doubt sitting down with him would elicit much on the way of a sensible discussion. He was always irascible at best and oddly suffers from PTSD from his war service if that’s still possible. Over the years he was never prone to sharing his past life, except in snippets, and that, some of it was about the war. I guess war did terrible things to the participants back them

And, as for his war service, we have the physical documentation of where and when, but only a potted history of his own account of his service. But even that is a story and a half in itself.

More on that later.