Tag Archives: childhood

Looking back:

Have begun writing some of my memoir into short stories. This is one example:
Empire Day
I watched my mother make toffee apples. The sweet smell of sugar melting, bubbling fast with the bright red cochineal added. No stirring allowed as the sugar became toffee. The dimpled, large tin tray was filled with skewered toffee dipped apples left to set.

The year was 1956, May school holidays. The neighbourhood kids, my brothers and I had scoured the bush on the parade for dead branches and trees. We’d collected anything flammable. Old tyres were a prized find, though previously these had to be hidden from a rival arsonist gang, who had burnt our bonfire down the year before.

This year we joined forces with the rival gang and invited them to help build our bonfire and share the night. They were not so scary, once we got to know them. Two of them, the Stone twins, led a tough life, having to milk the cows each morning and night, helping their mother after their father had died. We all had fun dragging dead branches and piling them up until the bonfire was huge.

Cold winter darkness descended. Dressed warmly in our woolen coats and full of anticipation, we all went to the paddock opposite where the bonfire was ready to be lit. My mother waddled carrying enough toffee apples for everyone, the tray resting on her extended stomach. After distributing them, mother collected everyone’s crackers and put them onto another large tray to prevent them being lit at the same time so that it would extend the fireworks display.

Dad lit the fire illuminating excited faces. Flowerpots disgorged their red and yellow sprays of colour from the fence post. A few tom thumbs ignited, popping here and there, with penny bungers and Jumping Jacks being thrown, scaring the unwary. Catherine wheels spun skewered to fence posts. Rockets soared out of beer bottles, spraying red, green and white stars.

Suddenly there was a ruckus. Someone had thrown a large cracker onto the tray, which started igniting the rest. My mother dropped the tray, jumping back as crackers went off in every direction. A rocket whizzed between her legs as she hopped and danced. Disappointed, without understanding why, my brothers and I were quickly gathered together and taken home.

It wasn’t until the next morning that we were told our brother, Angus, was born on Empire Day. He came into the world with a bang and inherited a crackerjack personality.

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Evocative Sensations:

The transporter, suggested by Michelle W.                                                                                          Tell us about a sensation, a taste, a smell, a piece of music –that transports you back to childhood.

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Many of my senses seem to be interwoven, and extricating just one seems almost an impossibility. After much cogitation, I shall mention some of the strongest reminders of my childhood:

The wind blowing off the ocean and the sight, smell and taste of the sea with salt air blowing in my hair and up my nose is one of tranquility or maelstrom that takes me back.

The sight, taste and smell of brandy sauce on plum pudding are all equally transporting.

Music from the records my father played will always lift me to the feeling of the freedom of dance, so much part of my childhood memories.

Finally, smells: The perfume of talcum powder evokes the warmth and love of my mother. The smell of a spaniel’s ear brings the wonderful memories of Rummy, our spaniel. The stench of over cooked cabbage brings back the horror of boarding school. The aroma of a rose transports me back, as do many of the flowers that grew in the abundant garden of my childhood.

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A misused word: daily prompt

A misused word….

An incident from childhood that remains with me, is from my youngest brother.

Angus was the youngest of five children. My mother was often too busy to put him to bed, so I’d help. Angus was such a mischievous and adorable child. We’d say prayers before going to sleep and Angus’ version really cracked us up.

Instead of ending with , ‘For Christ’s sake, Amen.’

He’d say, ‘For Christ’s sake, come in!’

We didn’t enlighten him that these were the wrong words…. I’ve included this incident in Enduring Threads: part 13

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Enduring Threads: part 7

Grandma

Chloris and Harry Haines 1914

Chloris and Harry Haines
1914

I’d sit on my Grandma’s knee and snuggle, encompassed in her warm, substantial breast. I felt loved. She encouraged me to sing to her. I’d watch her cook Scottish shortbread, always her favourite. She’d sit on a stool to relieve her arthritic legs, saying, ‘ It is always better to sit, rather than stand, so sit here beside me.’ I’d perch up next to her on another stool.

At seven I started music lessons. This meant that I stayed with Grandma two nights during the week as she lived closer to the music teacher’s house. Walking to school afterwards, I’d have to hurry not be late for school.

We’d have sardines on toast, or asparagus from the garden, with milk coffee for tea, (supper). That meant warming the mik and putting the coffee grains in the milk before straining. Sometimes we’d have coffee and chickory essence, the sweetness still appeals to me, even though I drink black coffee unsweetened now. Getting scared in the night by my grandmother snoring and haunting noises, such as the stairs creeking, would wake me. I’d lie awake in that soft bed with the blue feather counterpane looking at the shadows, waiting for a ghost to appear.

 

Chloris Janet Haines (my Grandmother)

Chloris Janet Haines
(my Grandmother)

At nine I was given my first bicycle that had belonged to Auntie Mary; it had bent and rusty handlebars. I was so grateful to have a bike, that it didn’t matter that it wasn’t new like my friend Penny’s. This now meant that I didn’t have to stay with Grandma, I had a choice; whether to ride in the pelting rain, holding out my arm to turn right, wobbling, feeling water drip down my neck, or stay at Ronald Street. Keeping a balance, dividing my time, that felt best.

I enjoyed music but really wasn’t motivated, so I didn’t achieve much progress, though I did get a distinction one snowy morning, with frozen fingers playing for my Preliminary Exam. Snow fell twice during those school years, though we did get many severe frosts. Putting a saucer of creamy milk out at night, to collect it frozen next morning, was a popular thing to do and it tasted wonderful. A boy at school lost an eye, being hit by a snowball with a stone in it that snowy day.

As I got older, Grandma demanded more of me, ‘ Wash up the glass first, cutlery second, then plates, with saucepans last. Make sure the water is very hot!’ her repeated refrain. I loved her, so it didn’t matter. I didn’t mind running messages, as she’d say,

‘Your legs are younger than mine!’

Penny and I stayed with her at Uncle Henry’s farm at Deloraine, where Penny couldn’t believe it when we were asked to redo the washing up. Penny wasn’t nearly as accepting as me and muttered under her breath,

‘She can’t be serious, the old cow!’

In later years my mother became very tired of having to visit her, especially as her visits were

Sisters Mynie and Chloris (great aunt and grandmother)

Sisters Mynie and Chloris
(great aunt and grandmother)

never considered long enough. As soon as my mother would get up to leave, Grandma would say, ‘I’m sure there was something else I had to tell you. If you wait a while I may remember.’ Or she’d say,

‘You’ve only just arrived, you can’t go yet!’

Being habitually late had been one of her ways of taking control. When she was older and sedentary this was no longer possible. Instead, she remained the matriarch from her chair or bed, in other ways.

 

 

 

Enduring Threads: Part 1.

 

My first memory is of drowning at Paloona; a blissful feeling with bubbles coming out of my ears, no need to struggle, submerging three times. My mother’s white sandals dripping with water as she carried me back up the riverbank remains a question: ‘Why didn’t you take them off’?’ This experience at the age of two, removed my fear of death. That feeling of euphoria drowning remains with me. Death is something to be welcomed when the time is right.

29 Victoria Parade, Devonport, Tasmania

‘Yarandoo’ 29 Victoria Parade, Devonport, Tasmania

My grandfather Frederick Henry (‘Harry’) Haines built ‘Yarandoo’, (our home) 29 Victoria Parade, Devonport, opposite the mouth of the Mersey River, for his young bride Chloris Janet McFie. They were married on 21st October 1914; Chloris was nineteen and Harry was thirty-five. Six children were born to them in this house, before Harry built another home for his family at 6 Ronald Street. This was on higher ground where he thought it would benefit his asthma.

Wedding of Chloris McFie and Harry Haines  21-10-1914

Wedding of Chloris McFie and Harry Haines
21-10-1914

Harry’s round cheerful countenance emanated good will. A watch chain stretched over his large protruding paunch symbolizing his success in business. My grandmother was taller than my grandfather, rounded too when I knew her, with a loosely twisted grey bun, held together with clear plastic hairpins, which shed themselves frequently. Her feet were knotted; she had special shoes made in Melbourne to accommodate her bunions. I thought they looked like a witch’s feet. She was a soft and generous woman who grew shorter as the years progressed.

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When Grandpa travelled by car, all anyone could see was his hat sitting above the steering wheel. People would say,

‘There goes Cocky Haines,’ with an affectionate inflection. He’d often drive in second gear, Henry, his son, would say,’ Shouldn’t you go up a gear?’

‘I don’t think so!’ and soon after he’d surreptitiously progress to the next gear. He did like to go fast over the railway line, especially if his in-laws were in the car; he’d try to get them to hit their heads on the roof. My brother, Angus, inherited not only his good looks but also his naughty nature.

No.29 was given to my parents as a wedding gift on 6th March 1943. My father had been living in Melbourne during the war, helping to build aeroplanes. His skin condition, psoriasis, had prevented him from joining the air force. Two of his brothers joined the army, and they ended up as prisoners-of-war. His third brother joined the navy. Barney wrote a book called ‘A Kind of Cattle’ in 1986, describing his four-year experience as a POW in Germany and Austria, with which he won the NSW Premier’s Literary Award/ Peace Prize. Barney also wrote ‘Where’s Morning Gone’, about his childhood, which won the Tasmanian Bicentennial Literary Award in 1987; these were two of the ten books he had published.

My mother had been a nurse before enlisting to be an army nurse, leaving Tasmania for the Middle East, much to her parents’ dismay. She had done her training at the Devon Hospital, Latrobe, where she met her future sister-in-law Judy Roberts. Judy took Brenda home, and that was where she met my father, Frank. The farm didn’t have electricity at that time and my mother remembered going to bed at ‘Currajong’, still feeling for the light switch with a candle in her hand.

During the war Brenda fell madly in love with a doctor in the Middle East, but she thought her parents wouldn’t approve. He was a Pole and a gambler. They enjoyed a close friendship during that time. He returned to work in Victoria after the war as a psychiatrist. He married and had only daughters, whilst Brenda had those coveted sons.

On her return to Tasmania, my mother chose to marry Frank Roberts who was handsome, reliable and had a dry sense of humour. Grandpa employed Frank at his building firm, after bringing my parents back from Melbourne after their marriage. Frank did night classes in accountancy at the local technical college. He’d previously done a fitters and turners certificate. Frank was a very practical man, good with figures and machinery. He made many things around the house including a myrtle record player and a standard lamp from black wood. But he always hankered after the dream of returning to the land; having been brought up on a farm, it was in his blood.

Dad had left his boyhood home, Currajong, to find work because he was the eldest and the depression was affecting them on the farm. He realized that he, his sister and three brothers wouldn’t all be able to stay on the farm, so he looked further afield for work.

He went up to Queensland where he mended fences and did other odd jobs like making and selling ink, before getting to North Queensland where he cut sugarcane. There he worked with some Italians and had his horizons widened by tasting new foods and hearing their life stories.

I believe Brenda and Frank had a happy marriage, though they chose to go their separate ways some of the time. In the end I think they were grateful for one another and pleased that they had stuck it out through the tough times.

They had five children, all born at Meercroft, a cottage hospital in Devonport. Clive was a difficult birth. Judy, Dad’s sister, was Matron when Clive was born. He was in the breech position, and whilst waiting for him to be born, Judy told Mum to have a bath whilst she, Judy, went off to bed. Next morning she appeared and was horrified to see that Mum hadn’t had the baby. The doctor was called for. His comment was,

‘Thank God, they are both alive!’

This incident was never forgotten. Clive was born on 18th April 1944. The war finished on 2nd September 1945. I was born on 25th February 1946.

I loved having an older brother. The only time I saw him smacked, on the leg by my father, I cried so much that Dad didn’t ever smack any of us again.

Barbara and Clive Roberts

Barbara and Clive Roberts

 

When Graeme was born, 24th October 1949, Clive and I went to stay with neighbours, Ted and Nance Clemenson. We were treated kindly, and read stories, though I did wonder why we couldn’t go home. Childbirth was not discussed with children in that era. There we ate whitebait patties that were exquisite. Ted was a great fisherman. Their children, Libby and Jenny, were older than us. They had a white cockatoo that squawked ‘Caught any fish Ted?’ every time it heard the gate click. Libby was part of the neighbourhood gang that formed in later years, when we spent the holidays building our annual bonfire. Christopher Pyett was also part of this gang.

Graeme was a placid baby, though his asthma and eczema were trials my mother took in her stride. She had us all fitting in around her busy schedule of house and garden chores, committees and social activities, which included visiting relatives. In those days we walked for miles. We’d stop and chat to those we met in the street. Time was more leisurely and the days seemed longer. There was a feeling of space and our close-knit family/community gave me a feeling of acceptance and belonging.

Mum had quite a large group of friends as well as her committee commitments. The hospital and Eskleigh were her main interests. Eskleigh was a home that my grandfather helped establish, finance and build for the permanently injured or sick at Longford. Girl Guides would come to the house to do their first aid badges, until I broke the thermometer.

Afternoon tea was very popular and quite a formal event. Delicate china on an auto-tray with an assortment of home cooked scones, cakes and biscuits, covered by a delicate embroidered ‘throw over’ was the norm. The milk jug and sugar bowl were also covered with a crochet cover with glass beads around the edge. Our grandmother always had at least scones, shortbread and cream cake on the auto-tray. We children were given lemonade at Grandma’s, whereas at home we’d get homemade lemon cordial, milk or water.

When we visited the Miss Norton-Smiths their ruby coloured beads tinkled as we entered their impoverished but elegant drawing room. I was small; Mum would sit me on her knee and let me drink her tea, as she really didn’t want to be rude and refuse a drink, but she never liked tea or coffee. Addicted early, I was pleased to help.

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Rewriting and resorting:

Camellia 'Donation' little bruised after rainstorm

Camellia ‘Donation’
little bruised after rainstorm

Today I have been attempting to rewrite part of my memoir. Maggie Wilson, our blogging friend, kindly read my memoir, ‘Enduring Threads.’ One of her suggestions was that it might be better in two stories. This idea has given me the impetus to at least try a few things out. It sounds a lot easier than it proves to be! I have begun the childhood section removing insertions of later life. It is like playing with a jigsaw, trying to find the perfect fit. I never was quick with jigsaws, so this will set me a long winter task. I wish to include it in the WP Writing 201 program. Since I didn’t do the first program, I hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.

Music: growing up

My father built our gramophone and the blackwood piece of furniture that surrounded it. The fine speakers were large and positioned high up in an alcove, above cupboards, either side of the fireplace. Father adored loud music, Beethoven particularly. He encouraged my brothers and me to sit listening to Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ and tell him what we visualised. Those memories are fragrant. ‘Peter and the Wolf’ with the musical accompaniment filled many a winter’s day. We were lucky to have someone who could share his deep love of music.

When alone with the music my favourites were Chopin’s ‘Les Sylphides’ ballet and Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’; where I’d swan around dancing my heart out, not being allowed dancing lessons at that age.

The fireplace took the place of a television. Living in Tasmania, the fire was lit for a good part of the year. The house itself was built by my grandfather for his bride back in 1914; given to my parents as a wedding present in 1942.

Christopher, my now husband, introduced me to the word ‘pop music’ when I was about ten. It wasn’t until I went to boarding school at eleven that I began to listen to pop music. There was just one wireless in the common room and everyone enjoyed top of the pops. In the evenings at school before prep, (homework), one of the really talented girls used to play pop tunes for us to dance to. I hated being away at school, but I do remember the music with much nostalgia.

Later when my eldest brother was at university and I was at Art School, we’d go to concerts together, classical and popular. One memorable night, Segovia, a famous classical guitarist, gave thirteen encores!

Christopher has a photographic memory when it comes to music. He has a fantastic collection and continues to educate me. The thump, thump of the popular music doesn’t interest us anymore. It is rather soporific when the neighbours have their occasional parties, like a soft heart beat, now I’m getting deaf.