What makes a location – 1 – The places around me

Having just described some of the early life, and the abject misery of being in a house with people who didn’t seem to care about anyone or anything, it flowed down into us.

But, here’s the thing.

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 do we know about life?

Our view of life, love, relationships, and marriage come from our own experiences. This is basically the same for all of us for everything that happens to us through life, as young children, at school, at work, at leisure, and, as we grow as a person.

Our ideas about life will come from the experiences of having our children, watching over our children as they grow up, from our relatives, both our own and those acquired by marriage or relationships, and from our friends.

No two life experiences will be exactly the same. There will be similarities but differences which may or may not give us a different perspective, whether that might be for the better or for the worse. Not everything that will happen to us will be good, or bad, but just an experience that we will remember or forget, take notice of or ignore, helps us grow, or cause us pain.

There will be the experiences we have when interaction with others that are outside our family sphere but haling an influence on us directly or indirectly, like politicians, doctors, government officials, and police. There will also be experiences involving those at work that we interact with in a professional manner, and others, who have influence in ways that sometimes can be unimaginable.

These interactions will influence our feelings, thoughts, and how we react and behave, the highs and lows of having children and grandchildren, interactions with aunts, uncles, our parents. Equally there will be moments of despair, of losing a job or missing out on a promotion, of dealing with people in the workplace that make life difficult, dealing with relatives who are not very nice, in short all of those interactions with all these people around you, and more.

Yes, your life is steered by all of these influences, and your views are often coloured by any or all of these people. They make up the sum of who you are, who you will be, and what you want to be. Those dreams will seem, sometimes, within your grasp, but quite often they will seem as far from your grasp as touching the moon.

But all of this, while it makes up who you are, will also make up who your characters are in a story.

They will be people you know, people you’ve met, people you’ve interacted with, people you’ve seen.

Over a series of posts I’ll try to describe some of my influences, and then refine them into the characters and locations of my stories.

It’s been a hard day

I’ve not had much time over the last few days to do anything other than renovations.

The last time we did some much needed renovations was 15 years ago, when the driver of the repairs was a very badly leaking patio which the original builders tried twice to fix it, and failed miserably.

I came to the conclusion that if anything, if you want something done properly, then you have to do it yourself.

Then, a look through the house brought to light a great many other problems that over the preceding years.

The list grew:

Rebuild the patio

Completely remove the kitchen and replace it

Completely remove the main bathroom, and replace it

Chang a rather strange split roof in the main bedroom and make a bigger space for the bed

Completely rebuild the walk in wardrobe

Add ducted air conditioning

Replace all the doors, and I mean ALL the doors

Replace all carpeted floors with tiles

Repaint all the walls, doors and windows

Replace the curtains on all windows

That took nearly a year to get done and made a huge difference to the house we owned, making it much more livable. 

Needless to say, tens of thousands of dollars later, it was done.

Now, 15 years later, there was a new list:

Build a carport

Refresh and re point the roof tiles

Have the brick exterior rendered, and change colours to black roof and cream walls

Add security shutters to all the windows

Completely re landscape the front garden

Dry wall the exposed interior brick walls, and close in the cathedral roof

Repaint the rooms with a lighter shade, namely Antique White

Repaint all doors and windows.

Renovate the kids bedrooms to now accommodate grandchildren

Replace curtains with Venetian blinds

Scrub the floor tiles, especially the grout

It’s been a long list, and a year or so in the doing, and I’m now down to the final painting, floor scrubbing, and we’re looking at new blinds.

Then I can get back to writing, which I have been missing terribly.

Leaving a legacy…

I’ve been reading a few blog posts off and on today, and one that caught my eye was about leaving a legacy.

This I presumed to be ‘something to be remembered by’.

I have always suspected that when I pass on, the memory will not linger very long, except when someone, in the years ahead, pulls out a an old photo, and says, “Who’s this old man?”

I’m sure the answer would hover somewhere between “You don’t really want to know,” to “He’s the eccentric side of the family.”

The thing is, I’ve discovered that children in this family seem to have an insatiable appetite for discovering information about their forebears. It also seems to be that the school they go to makes a big deal about the children learning genealogy, and get an assignment either in year 5 or year 6 where they have to trace their forebears back as far as they can.

I have to say I’ve always been curious, but never really did anything about it, except go back a few generations, i.e. those people we could remember, and, yes, we had eccentric aunts and uncles, grandmothers, and grandfathers.

But my older brother, he got the bug, and went into genealogy in a big way, got himself a university degree, and then takes a trip or two overseas every year delving into the murky past of the Heaths and the Auhls.

The Heaths apparently came from Dorset in England, and the Auhls, somewhere in Germany. He told me, but I’ve forgotten, but I do have a file somewhere that tells me.

And being in Australia, it’s like gold if you have a forebear who was a convict, but unfortunately we didn’t, though I recently learned one of our forebears who came out to Tasmania, was a pseudo Luddite (he was arraigned as guilty by association, but he was no Luddite) in the 1860’s.

But finding a legacy somewhere amongst all those relatives is no mean feat, because it seems none of us were famous, and I haven’t broken the mold, or at least not yet. I might still get to be a (famous?) writer or blogger.

So I am sitting here wondering what the real definition of legacy is, if it can’t apply to wealth or fame. Could it be the next generation of Heaths, the grandchildren? Could one call them a legacy? We will no doubt eventually leave them behind to continue, and maybe one of them will be famous.

The youngest has a desire to be an artist, and she is quite good at drawing, The middle granddaughter wants to be a scientist, and is doing well at school. Of course, there are the middle years, where boys are not yet a distraction, so who knows what the future will bring. As for the eldest, being 16 going on 17 is just too hard.

How could you possibly know at 16 or 17 what it is you want to be? When I was that age I had a choice of being academic, ie maths and science, or hand’s on, a carpenter, sheet metal worker or mechanic.

I did work as a builder for a while, but moved to night switchboard operator/postman, shipping clerk, services manager, and then computer programmer, which none of my learning while at school had any bearing on, except perhaps for maths.

So I’m guessing my legacy was my children, and their legacy is their children, and so on.

As for fame, I don’t think it’s all it’s cracked up to be.

How do you fit an author’s biography into a few simple words?

Every year I come back to revisit this, and each year it becomes a harder issue to deal with.  All that’s recently changed is the number of characters you can use.

I’ve been trawling the endless collection of twitter descriptions provided by their users, noting that there is a restriction of 280 characters.

How do you sum yourself up in 280 characters?

I don’t think I can, so like everyone else, I tend to put down a few catchphrases, something that will draw followers.  I’m thinking the word ‘aspiring’ will be my catchword.

I’m aspiring to be a writer, or is that author?  Is there a difference, like for instance, one publishes eBooks on Amazon, one publishes hard copies in the traditional manner?

The thing is, I want to be different from everyone else.  The real fact of the matter is that I’m not.  Like every other writer, or author, I put words on paper, and some people will read them, and a whole lot of others won’t.

And it’s not because they don;t want to, it’s simply because they don’t know my work is pout there.

So, the question is, how the hell do I make myself heard?

Taking the tradition route, saying I’k a father, I have children, I have a long suffering but accommodation wife, that hours of shutting myself away is a necessity, but creates hardship on others, how an I different?

What is it about me that makes me different from anyone else?  Am I different, do I want to be different?  Certainly I want to be heard, so do I shout at the top of my vices from the top of the highest hill?

Perhaps it would be better if I was a retired policeman, a retired lawyer, a retired sheriff, a retired private investigator, a retired doctor, someone who had an occupation that was a rich mine of information from which to draw upon.

Retired computer programmers, supermarket shelf stackers, night cleaners, accounts clerks and general dogsbody s don’t quite cut the mustard.  A mundane life does a writer not make.

Perhaps I need a ‘killer biography’.  Does it mean that I have to be a ‘killer’?

Anything has to be better than the self-confession above, and it begs the question, should we try to embellish our personal history in order to make ourselves more appealing?

All very good questions which deserve really good answers.  The pity of it is no one wants to address them.

So maybe it’s time I take a leaf out of the book of one of my characters, and become larger than like, be the character that people want to read about, the one that translators them from their everyone mundane life, if only for a few short hours.  AS a writer, perhaps I simply want to be something, someone other than myself.

And there you have it, in a nutshell, why I write.

A book review, “Life at the end of the Rainbow” by Jenny Andrews

Life at the end of the Rainbow, by Jenny Andrews

https://amzn.to/2Xbl4ZX

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.

A book review, “Life at the end of the Rainbow” by Jenny Andrews

Life at the end of the Rainbow, by Jenny Andrews

https://amzn.to/2Xbl4ZX

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.

 

A twitter biography

Every year I come back to revisit this, and each year it becomes a harder issue to deal with.  All that’s recently changed is the number of characters you can use

I’ve been trawling the endless collection of twitter descriptions provided by their users, noting that there is a restriction of 280 characters.

How do you sum yourself up in 280 characters?

I don’t think I can, so we tend to put down a few catchphrases, something that will draw followers.  I’m thinking the word ‘aspiring’ will be my catchword.

I’m aspiring to be a writer, or is that author?  Is there a difference, like for instance, one publishes ebooks on Amazon, one publishes hard copies in the traditional manner?

Is there a guide to what I can call myself?

Quite simply put, but in more than 140 characters, married happily, two wonderful children, three amazing grandchildren, and a wealth of experience acquired over the years.

Actually, that sounds rather boring, doesn’t it?

Perhaps it would be better if I was a retired policeman, a retired lawyer, a retired sheriff, a retired private investigator, a retired doctor, someone who had an occupation that was a rich mine of information from which to draw upon.

Retired computer programmers, supermarket shelf stackers, night cleaners, accounts clerks and general dogsbody s don’t quite cut the mustard.

I have also become fascinated with the expression ‘killer biography’.  Does it mean that I have to be a ‘killer’?

Better than the self-confession above.  Should we try to embellish our personal history in order to make it more appealing?

It’s much the same as writing about daily life.  No one wants to read about it, people want to be taken out of the humdrum of normalcy and be taken into a world where they can become the character in the book.

And there you have it, in a nutshell, why I write.