The past and how it affect us

As much as we profess that we have left the past in the past and that we are firmly focussed on the present and even more so, the future, it isn’t always the case.

I’ve already had a discussion about whether the past defines us. In the majority of cases that may be true to a very small extent, but in everyone there is a basic understanding of what is right and what is wrong, and if we are wronged during that valuable learning period as a child, there is nearly always someone there to guide you in the right direction.

For the most part, during that time, it’s your parents.

And if the are the perpetrators of that wrong, then hopefully you know enough that it is wrong, and that you have the courage to tell someone else, like a grandparent or school counsellor, or even the police.

That’s now, of course, where we live in a far more transparent world children who are being abused have a voice that will be heard.

Wind this back 60 years.

There were no such protections. Any stray aunt, uncle, neighbour, or just a good friend of the family could get away with sexual assault, or any sort of domestic violence because society then had a different set of rules.

Grownups would first believe their fellow grownups before they listened to the ramblings of a child. In those days a child never had a voice, and we are now discovering just how many children were abused.

The same went for women. There are untold numbers of women out there that spent many years cowering lest they were beaten or verbally and mentally abused. Trying to protect their children from a bullying father copped the harshest treatment, but there wer many reasons, the simplest being not having dinner on the t sable when he got home.

As young children seeing this behaviour and not understanding it’s significance, can lead to the practice being handed down simply because a young child will accept it as the norm. It’s still the reason why some children are still bullies at school, that boys treat girls badly and swearing is very common among children as young as six or seven.

Back 69 odd years ago the results of parental behaviour had far more serious ramifications because the people who should have done something about it, thought nothing of it. Why? Although some people thought it was wrong, it was the people who mattered that didn’t. A woman who depended on a man who bashed her was far less likely to leave than one today.

Back then there were no half way houses, no protection from the bullies, and no social welfare systems in place to help these women or their children.

My mother was one of those women.

Me and my elder brother were two of those children. Don’t ask me how we came out the other side, totally different people to what we might have been.

Perhaps it was down to my grandmother with whom we spent enough time to learn there was a different type of world out there, and all we had to do was embrace it.

And, for the few years my father finally come to his senses, and leaving us all alone, life wasn’t normal but it was better.. We just kept moving, so loneliness was a way of life.

But, it seems, he changed in a different ways, and became controlling, especially in my mother’s case, and though I didn’t really understand then the results of it, the full extent of this behaviour came out when I had to make the decision to separate my mother from him in their nursing home because he was verbally and mentally abusing her. There were other aspects to this controlling behavior that tipped the scales.

Having done that, he turned his rage and vitriol on me. Imagine right there and then, every terrible memory came flooding back and the fear and despair I felt.

We had a blazing row, I was denounced as a conspirator and a lot of other unrepeatable things, and I have not spoken to him since.

Mercifully my mother is safe from him now, but she has full blown dementia, and it is, I suspect the end result of the beatings she suffered.

But there’s always a silver lining, as my grandmother used to say, and that was for me to write, and from a very early age I would read any book I could get my hands on, and then behind to invent an alternate works to live in, one where there wasn’t the violence and misery we suffered.

And using that imagination, and using the many books I had read began to write my own stories. I have a trove of material written back then which I pull out every now and then, and which have fuelled many stories now.

Perhaps it was a side effect from my younger years that I was introverted and had very low self esteem. Because if that it too years, being married to the most remarkable and generous woman, that I finally found the courage to publish my stories.

They’re not bestsellers, but their mine, and ar the result of self achievement I never though, all those years ago, was possible.

Are we doomed to remember the past?

I find that as I get older, there are fragments of my life coming back, and I’m beginning to dread the fact that I will relive past events over and over, especially those that I don’t want to remember.

When we’re younger, it seems difficult to get past certain events that occurred in your life, but with the passing of time, it’s possible to send them to a corner of your mind, not completely gone, but far enough away that you can get on with your life.

These are emotional, and sometimes physical events that happened to you.

And it’s possible that in living those events, it has made me a much better person, because I never treated my children or anyone else for that matter, the way I was treated.  I won’t say life was brutal, all of the time, but there was a period where I and my both my elder brother and mother constantly lived in fear.

It stopped eventually, but those memories haunted me for many years.

Then, when a new set of circumstances enters your life, it tends to force these out, in a sense I wanted to think there’s only so much hard disk space in my head, and I would have to erase all those bad memories so there was room for the new.

Apparently, it doesn’t work like that.

Now that I’ve gotten older, and retired, I’ve found that those old memories are resurfacing, and to be honest, it’s annoying.  I put it down to the fact, if you are no longer working full time, you are no longer actively using your brain as much, so there’s some sort of compensation going on, and the brain fills in the gaps with past memories.

In my case, it’s all the wrong ones.

I don’t want to remember my years in secondary school, my life with an abusive father, the fact that I used to hide under the bed to escape a beating, and those nightmarish screams of my bother and our mother trying to get my father to stop.  Usually, he would turn his anger on her.

Yes, and after an indeterminate number of years it stopped, but in my mind, it went on for so long those moments have been seared into my brain, and it’s no wonder they come back.  Why couldn’t the later days of holidays at Lakes Entrance, and Wilson’s Promontory, or the school holidays when we used to get a pile of box sides to build a cubby house come back?

Is this one of the problems of old age?

I know my father, who served in the second world war came back scarred, mentally and physically.  Given the brutality of war and the fear most of the men must have held in in the face of the enemy, it would be hard not to have some problems when you come back and try to fit back into normal society.  I suspect there was no such thing as PTSD back then, and no counselling, so perhaps the reason why he turned on us.

He only spoke of it very rarely, but those glimpses were enough.

He too is very old now, and I suspect he lives with these memories, ones I’m sure he’d rather not.  I’m also fairly certain that not all of my father’s issues came from the war, but he had issues with his father, and it perpetuated through him.

The thing is, still in this day and age we do not have the capacity to understand why this happens and the means we should use to try and send those memories back to the dark recesses.  We are willing to admit that there is such a thing as mental illness, and a lot of people have it, but only a small percentage of people will admit to it.

Why?  The stigma of admitting there is something wrong prevents us from doing so.  And admitting what caused it, well, people then start to avoid you because they think that you might be like that or turn out like that.

I am not like my father.  I saw what happened, I was on the receiving end, and I knew it was wrong.  It could quite easily go the other way, accept that what happened to me was the norm, and perpetuate the problem.

I did not.  I wanted everyone to have the sort of life I did not, and over the last forty-five years, and for as long as I live, they have been able to, and will.

And probably the best thing to come out of it, my children’s children had lived the same fear-free life.

I suppose seeing a psychiatrist might help, but it means dredging it all up so that you can talk about it, and then it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.

Is there an answer to the problem?

If I find one I’ll let you know.


A few random thoughts

It’s interesting what children are being taught these days as distinct from how we were all those years ago.

I went to school over 50 years ago, and we were predominantly taught arithmetic, which is now called maths, English, which was how to write properly, and spell words, and read from specified school texts rather than mainstream writers, geography, which was predominantly about the British Commonwealth, History, which was predominantly British history, and just a little about our own country, Australia, music, which we all hated, especially if we were picked for the school choir, and some other subjects I don’t remember.

Now, it seems there’s a different slant of how children learn the basics, and what I find is how English, written and spelt, is taught.  When you see the standard of the work being produced as a result of this teaching, you would throw your hands up in disgust.

And spelling, they spell the words the way they sound.  I mean, really?

Is it any wonder that when you listen to a teenagers conversation, if you can get them off their phones long enough, there are more ‘like’ and ‘but’ scatted through the sentence, and sadly, in a lot of cases, expletives.

Discipline and behaviour were very high priorities back then, too.

Primary education in our days was a perfect grounding for what came next, secondary school.  In primary school we were taught the values of discipline, there were no rowdy kids or any form of bad behaviour.  It just wasn’t tolerated.  That discipline started to slip as we entered secondary school, you know, slowly turning into smart arses as teenagers do, but discipline was enforced, and getting punished for bad behaviour was a definite deterrent.

I know, I was at the end of it quite a few times in my illustrious school days.

But I learned a great deal.

But the reason for this is the news my granddaughter came home with, where one member of her class deliberately set out to wreck their project simply because he hadn’t done one.  Spite, or jealousy?  Definitely bad behaviour, in our time, that kid would be front and centre at the headmaster’s office, handed a form of corporal punishment, and then expelled, or if not, sent home for a week to ponder his options.

The end result of this event, he earned some remedial classes.

That behaviour in schools is widely spread, and symptomatic of today’s society where parents are more preoccupied with their own problems which is the ground zero for the general bad behaviour of our youth.  No discipline and no consequences for their actions, either at home or at school.  How do expect to maintain law and order when a whole generation has no idea what law and order is?

At least, in this country, that wretched child can’t get his hands on a gun and go to the school and start shooting people.  For that, I guess, we should be grateful.

A square peg in a round hole

Doesn’t that describe at least one of your characters?

It seems a lot of my characters fit that category, and I’m beginning to think it’s like being a typecast Hollywood actor.  Once the villain, always the villain.

Perhaps they take after me, or I’m drawing on all those experiences I’ve had over the years, where I don’t think I’ve ever quite fitted in.

It’s probably why, most of my working life, I have been a contractor, trying not to stay in one place too long.

Early on I tried the ‘I’m going to work for this place for the rest of my life’ route.  Being young, you don’t quite know what to expect, and, as the years pass, and progression through the ranks is slow, sometimes non-existent, and you see others who started after you, move up, you wonder if it’s you, or just a quirk of fate.

Probably me.

I worked hard and did all that was asked of me, sometimes more.  I’ve seen people above me take credit for what I’ve done, and being in that position where you couldn’t really say anything.  Who would believe you?

Better not to have a superior, and work autonomously on a project, or just a part of it.  No one can take credit for your work because you were hired specifically to do that job.  In doing so, I found a greater level of satisfaction in doing so.

Of course, it doesn’t come with permanency, and when there is a glut of labour looking to do the same task, work can sometimes be hard to find.  And there’s that retirement thing that is always at the back of your mind.  Working for yourself, in a manner of speaking, doesn’t come with the same benefits as a permanent job.

Even in life, I haven’t exactly followed the mold, because life throws a great deal at you, and sometimes it’s difficult if not impossible to get overwhelmed.  Often it’s difficult to step back for a moment because everyday issues and demands force you to confront them.  Kids need to go to school, meals still need to be put on the table, houses don’t pay for themselves, and gardens aren’t maintenance-free.

I’ve never been able to keep up with the Jones’, even though because of human nature, I tried.

Money does run out.  It never used to be the case, but in a throwaway society that has to have everything, including a new smartphone every year, the latest car every two years, and a trip around the world first-class because that’s what the neighbours are doing.

People smile, tell you how great things are, but behind the smile, well, we try not to talk about it.  Maybe we should.  That way we would not be attending funerals of people who have died before their time.

But, I reached retirement, something I thought long ago I never would, and I actually own both my house and my car and have a few dollars in the bank.

And I have time to do the writing I always wanted to.  It may not amount to much in the greater scheme of things, but it took a long time for this square ped to find a square hole.

It doesn’t mean my characters will.



It must be the seasonal change

Earlier today, or yesterday now since the clock has ticked over to a new day, I was writing a post about the weather.

Boring as hell, except it gradually turned into a rant about greed, both corporate and government,

There has to be better stuff to talk about than that.

Like today is father’s day.

It’s possibly the most interesting aspect of my life, having never expected as a teenager that I would ever become a father.  No, back in those dark and gloomy days I had neither the confidence or the wherewithal to be or do anything.

I guess meeting someone, falling in love, and getting married, pulls you out of the lethargy of youth and forces you to take stock, and become someone, someone who has to have a good job that pays good money so you can get the necessities like a house and a car.  You might have these before you get married, we had the cars, but not the house.

Then you realise you need more money because you never seem to earn enough until a baby comes along, and your whole life as you knew it turned upside down and inside out.  Bad enough trying to sustain two, it’s now three.

More money, larger house, larger car, a damn good washing machine, and lots of nappies.  Wow, I had thought having a baby meant more than a clothesline perpetually filled with nappies.

Until another baby comes along, the cycle repeats, then one has to go to school, and a whole new money pit opens and this costs more than the annual house payments.

Then there’s sport, and extracurricular activities like dancing (though we didn’t have girls, thankfully), then kids get to be very good at sport, so, you guessed it, another money pit.  And a steadily growing grocery bill as they get larger and start eating you out of house and home.

There’s never a let-up, from the moment they’re born till the moment they leave home, and that, sometimes, can take a few more years than you expected.

Along the way you hope that your kids will respect you are theuir father and their mother.  Sometimes that’s a forlorn hope.  Other times children become a blessing and are always there.  At least we don’t have to travel to either the other side of the country, or the other side of the world, to see ours, and with any luck, I will see them both later today.

I don’t expect much.  My relationship with my father is strained, now, but for many years I was there for him, much more than I should according to my wife.  I don’t want for them what happened to me, so I do what I can to make sure it doesn’t happen.

But the unexpected surprise, that one thing that you never expect when this life long journey starts, is the eventuality of grandchildren.  Yes, it’s a natural progression in the circle of life, but often it doesn’t quite happen.

We have three granddaughters, and though I know as we get older we will not see them as much or if at all as they make their way out into a very large and far more accessible world than we had at the same time, but I will cherish those moments I have with them now.

I guess today, being the first day of spring, is not such a bad day after all, and it’s amazing that twelve hours later after feeling the gloom and doom of the world, that mood has changed, and that it took so little to change it.

Perhaps that’s what life is really all about.



A book review

Life at the end of the Rainbow, by Jenny Andrews

Poetry is like art, its beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

But, while art can be very subjective, poetry often has a special meaning, to both the writer and then the reader.  In turn, for each of us readers, a poem will have a different meaning, some will see what it represents, and others may not.

And, whilst I have not read a lot of poetry over the years, that changed recently when I subscribed to several blogs and discovered this whole new class of literature.

This view was strengthened when I came across a volume of poems by Jenny Andrews, titled Life at the End of the Rainbow.

For me, each poem is an insight into an extraordinary life, where the author sometimes lays bare those raw emotions, which, at times, we will find ourselves drawing parallels.

In a sense, I think we have all been to this mythical place called, The End of the Rainbow, and sometimes need a gentle reminder that it took a lot of ups and downs to get there.

This is, to my mind, a remarkable piece of work.

I, for one, can’t wait to see what the next stage of the journey will be.


Does our education define us?

It’s 2am here, and I’m feeling philosophical, instead of being sleepy and going to bed.

It’s probably the problem most writers have when they’re working on a novel, a short story, or a blog post, or something else.

The other day a thought ran through my mind, whether or not my first school was still standing and if so, would it remember me?

Probably not.  I went there in 1958, I think when I was five.  I stayed there till I finished Grade six and then moved onto secondary school.

In those days, we could stay at secondary school till Form four and then, if we were 15 or over, we could leave.  I went to a technical school, i.e. one that taught a trade, rather than going to a High School which was for the more academically minded and who would go on to University.

But in my day, you had to have rich parents to get into a University, and we were decidedly poor.  It was a technical trade for me, and become a builder was to be my lot in life.

I wasn’t very good and sheet metal, the precursor to plumbing, or machine ship practice the forerunner to being a mechanic, or technical drawing, the forerunner to being a draughtsman

I could have just as easily been a farmer or gardener, it too was on the curriculum.

Where is this going?

Oh, yes.  My old primary school.  Yes, it’s still there, and it still looks like the gothic nightmare it used to.  Gothic or not, I guess those years in that school were good, and I don’t seem to have any bad memories, except,. of course, of the teachers, but that’s only natural.

secondary school, that was a nightmare, so different, and much like going to university, with different classes, different teachers, different rooms, and a lot of other kids who were older, larger, meaner, and made the navigation of early teens an annabilus horribilis four times over.

So the question did my education define me?

No.  I was a builder for a while, but my aspirations led me towards office work, the sort where you start at the bottom and languish there till you’re noticed.

Failing that, you work for a relative, then get headhunted, watch that opportunity slip away, and become an IT teacher that leads to computer programming.

But, as they say, always have a backup plan.

Yep!  Writing.  Been doing it since I was fifteen.

Now, those years I was at school have provided me with a diverse collection of people who have become characters in my stories, and I’m still waiting for the know on the door from the process server to tell me one of them finally recognized him or herself and didn’t like my impression of them.

Hasn’t happened yet.