Writing, words and written work

I often say I hate the word ‘partner’. I’m talking about ‘partner’ when used to mean ‘the person you are in a sexual relationship with’. However, on closer analysis I realise that it is not so much the word as its ubiquitous use that grates on me. The use of the word has gotten out of hand. It is bandied about willy-nilly and used at every turn. Why? Because no-one has written a guide on the use of this innocuous, insipid, uninformative, infuriating word. Here at long last are some clear cut guidelines for the use of the word ‘partner’.

DO NOT use ‘partner’ in the following situations:

1: If you know the status and gender of the person you are referring to.

What is your husband’s name?
Her husband is over there.
What is your wife’s name?
His wife is over there.

If you have made an official commitment to another person, why would you deprive them of their right honourable title?

2: If you are talking about your husband/wife/fiancé.

My husband is the father of most of my children.
My wife is a high court judge.
My fiancé does six impossible things before breakfast.

If you go to the time, trouble and expense of getting married/engaged, why on earth would you want to keep it a secret?

And there is nothing wrong with ‘girlfriend’ or ‘boyfriend’.

My boyfriend eats dog biscuits.
My girlfriend licks lollipops.

All right, for a person of mature age who is in a new relationship the terms girlfriend/boyfriend might seem a little twee (although I’d have no qualms in using ‘boyfriend’ myself). Here’s the good news; if you are in a live-in relationship and you don’t want to use boyfriend/girlfriend, you can use the terms husband/wife because you are common-law husband and wife.

DO use ‘partner’ in the following situations:

1: If you are referring to a mixed group.

Staff members are welcome to bring partners to the office party.

2: If you do not know the status/gender of the person you are referring to.

Do you have a partner?
What is your partner’s name?

3: If you are designing a form that needs to be filled in. Documents that, for some reason, include questions about the personal life of the person filling out the form might need to use the word partner to cover a wide range of possibilities. (husband/wife/fiancé/girlfriend/boyfriend/)

Please note: If you are introducing someone as your partner and you are not referring to ‘the person you are in a sexual relationship with’, please specify the type of partner you mean.

This is my dancing partner.
Allow me to introduce my business partner.
Mary is my performance partner.

If you follow these guidelines you will help to decrease the level of confusion and irritation in the world. JB :-)

It’s a mystery

It’s a mystery, not a murder mystery, but a mystery just the same.  It all began a few months ago when I was listening to the car radio on my way to an appointment. Nothing much on my usual station so I was flicking through the channels. That’s when I heard a voice, such a voice. I was so captivated that I knew I had to find out the name of the singer. The song was still in progress when I arrived at the place of my appointment, but I stayed in the car with the radio on waiting for the announcer to tell me who owned that voice. The song turned out to be a lengthy one, but there was no way I was going to turn the radio off until it was over and I found out the name of the singer. I had fallen helplessly, hopelessly, overwhelmingly in love with his voice.

The mystery is how that came about. You see, he was singing opera. I DO NOT like opera. Not one bit. For someone like me who loves simplicity, opera is an anathema. It’s an extravagant spectacle of emotional torture and opulent costumes. It’s over-the-top. Every moment is milked for drama.  The performers use so many words when a few would do.  And on top of all that the opera is not sung in English so I cannot follow the narrative (or I have to follow it ‘second hand’ through subtitles). So how is it that I could be profoundly affected by an opera singer’s voice?

And what’s more, this was not the first time. Many years ago I fell in love with the voice of another opera singer when I went to see a French movie called Diva. The voice of Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez bewitched me and I have never forgotten the moment in the movie when I first heard her sing. Perhaps that early ‘infatuation’ paved the way for the emotional impact of the voice I heard on the car radio.

When the ‘song’ (apparently opera does not use that term) on the radio concluded I wasn’t able to hear the name of the singer. Unfortunately, the reception was not clear, perhaps because it was a community radio station. When the singer’s name was announced, all I could pick up through the static was a first name that might have been Fergus and a surname which sounded like Hoffman.

It took quite a lot of searching later that evening on the internet to finally work out that the name of the singer whose voice had entrapped me was Jonas Kaufmann.

Strangely enough, although I complain of not being able to understand the words of an opera, it does not matter at all that I don’t understand the words sung by Wilhelmenia Fernandez or Jonas Kaufmann. Perhaps it is something about the quality of their voices that enchants me. Does the solution to the mystery have to do with sound?

I was brought up on the sounds of the Australian bush. Since there are no buildings, sound is free to travel in the bush. This meant that the sounds of nature enveloped us day and night. As I comment in Mother of Ten: ‘Our natural amphitheatre was vast and yet the crisp, clear sounds wrapped us in a sweet intimacy.’  Those sounds are a long way from the voices of opera and yet perhaps there is a link.

Is there anyone out there who can help me solve the mystery of why I can make an instant spiritual connection with an opera voice while still feeling repulsed by opera?  I cannot ponder it any longer as I need to get back to writing a murder mystery which I hope to have finished for release later this year.

Until next time…JB

14.3.2014: Thanks to my friend Elizabeth who reminded me that hearing is the first human sense to develop and the last to leave us when we die. I think that is significant.  If we come into the world on sound and leave it on sound, it makes sense that sound has a deep connection in our psyche.

15.04.2014: In March this year I heard that Jonas Kaufmann was coming to Melbourne for one concert on August 14. The price of a ticket was way out of my modest budget. How could I possibly pay $300 for a ‘one night stand’?!

It was due to the combination of encouragement from my niece Sally and the happy coincidence of a cheque in the mail from an insurance company who gave me a refund of $230 to compensate an overcharge that I took the plunge and bought a ticket.

The big day arrived yesterday and I was one of the entranced audience members at Hamer Hall who luxuriated in an evening of aural ambrosia. It was definitely the best one night stand I have ever experienced.

The woman at the back of the room paved the way for Quentin Bryce to become Australia’s Governor-General and Julia Gillard to become Australia’s Prime Minister. Back in those days men scoffed at ‘this nonsensical idea of giving women the vote’. They exposed their own foolishness by objecting to the idea of women having the right to stand for Federal Parliament with the argument that ‘members would not do their work if ladies sat beside them’. However, for Louisa Lawson it was simply ‘a just privilege so long denied’.

The following story about Louisa Lawson’s role in yanking out the weeds of prejudice on the path to women’s suffrage won me an award and publication in Marngrook.

The Woman at the Back of the Room

In an auditorium packed with women eager to celebrate the historic occasion one woman in a high-collared dress, her dark hair swept up in a style more functional than fashionable sat unnoticed in the back row.

It is September 1902. Golden wattles hint at a bright new dawn, spring rains generate hope that the drought might soon be over and the world’s greatest opera singer, Australia’s Dame Nellie Melba, has returned home for a triumphant concert season. The women who pack the hall of the School of Arts in Sydney are there to celebrate something more important than the start of a new season, more significant than the breaking of the drought, more momentous even than the world-wide success of their compatriot. They are there to rejoice the blossoming of a new world for women.

“It has taken years of struggle,” said one speaker from the platform at the front of the hall, “but the Commonwealth Franchise Act has finally granted us what should have been our right from the beginning; the right to vote.”

The crowd cheered and applauded. The speaker continued.

“The Act also gives women the right to stand for election to the Federal Parliament, making Australian women the first in the world to be able to do so.”

More enthusiastic applause and cheering almost drowned out her final words. The exhilaration of the occasion rippled through the hall but the woman sitting at the back of the room seemed detached from the excitement. Her dark eyes reflected signs of disappointment. Her mouth was set in a firm line of dissatisfaction.

She glared at the official podium overcrowded with special guests and politicians, as well as office bearers from the Womanhood Suffrage League. Why hadn’t she been invited to be up there? She had worked harder for this day than any of those people on the podium.

The woman’s disappointment took her back to a time when she had first experienced such profound disenchantment. She was thirteen years old again, standing on the dirt floor of the slab hut in Mudgee that had been home for her, her numerous siblings and her parents.

Mr Allpass, her teacher, had suggested that when she turned fourteen she could train as a pupil teacher. Wanting very much to take up this opportunity she had waited impatiently for her parents to sign the necessary papers but they had not done so. She could not understand why her mother was opposed to the idea.

“It won’t interfere with my schooling, Mother. The training is done after lessons.”

Her mother turned from the old wood stove, waved away a hovering fly and swept back loose strands of hair that had fallen over her eyes before she answered with a stern look.

“You’ll do the training after lessons, will you? And who do you think is going to help me with the children if you are at the school house till all hours.”

“It’s only for a couple of extra hours, Mother. Anyway, what about Emma? She’s the eldest, why can’t she help you when I am not here?”

“Your sister has her hands full looking after the babies, as well you know, young lady.”

“But Mother, after two years I will get paid. I can help you by earning money.”

“Earn money? Earn money, indeed. A woman’s place is in the home. What man will want you if you go around giving yourself airs above your station. Men do not want to marry women who are smarter than they are. Your fanciful ideas will ruin your chances of making a good marriage.”

“But Mother, getting married is not enough for me. I want to do things, I want to achieve things. Mr Allpass says I could be a fine writer one day.”

A sharp look of disapproval crossed her mother’s face. “A fine writer is it? Writing such nonsense as this, I suppose.” She reached into her apron pocket, retrieved a piece of paper and held it aloft between her thumb and forefinger as though she were holding a dead mouse by the tail. She eyed it with the same distaste she might bestow on the rodent. “I’ve told you before; this nonsense you are writing is not fit for respectable people to set eyes on.” Her mother screwed the piece of paper up into a tight ball, enclosing it in her clenched fist.

“What’s wrong with it? It’s just a poem about the bush. Mr Allpass said it was a good poem.”

“Mr Allpass indeed!”

Protecting her hand from the heat with an old cloth set aside for the purpose, her mother turned the handle of the small iron door at the front of the stove and flung the crumpled piece of paper into the fire chamber. The flames devoured her beautiful poem. Her mother closed the chamber door firmly, straightened and turned back to her daughter.

“You need to get your thoughts in order, young lady. This world is for men not women. You will only create misery for yourself with your foolish dreams.”

“Why, Mother? Why? Why can’t women do more than just look after babies?

“Because that’s the way it is and the sooner you accept it the better.”

“Well, that is not the way it’s going to be for me. If a job doesn’t need muscles and brawn a woman can do it just as well as any man. One day I’ll show you. I’ll show everyone. I’m going to do something to make the world a better place for women.”

“That’s enough from you, young lady. There’s work to be done and you can start by peeling the potatoes.”

Loud cheers and applause brought the woman from her reverie. When she realised who the crowd was cheering she sat forward with alert interest. It was Vida Goldstein. By starting a newspaper in Victoria advocating women’s rights, Vida had copied what she herself had already done in NSW.  She listened in anticipation of hearing her name mentioned, her thick dark eyebrows coming together in concentration. Vida Goldstein spoke about the history of the women’s suffrage movement and mentioned several people who had contributed to the good fight. Each person’s name was greeted with applause and cheers. However, Goldstein finished her triumphant victory speech without referring to the woman who sat at the back of the hall.

The anguish from her childhood memory was transferred to the present with bitter thoughts. She was the first to start a newspaper for women but Goldstein has conveniently forgotten that. And have they all forgotten she was also the first to publicly call for women to have the vote? That was back in 1888 through her Ladies Column in The Republican. Ever since then she had fought for women’s rights. She had also been one of the founding members of the Womanhood Suffrage League.

Waiting around to endure the indignity of further indifference was something she did not propose to do so while the official speeches continued the woman pulled on her gloves and picked up her bag. With cat-like disdain, she rose from her seat and crossed the room. A strong, tall physique was revealed, the puffed sleeves of her floor length dress accentuating her height and adding to the width of her ample shoulders. Despite her commanding physical presence the women in the audience, who were giving their full attention to those on the front stage, did not see her as she made her way to the door. However, on reaching the exit her departure was stalled by a woman dressed in a lace-collared satin gown with immaculately coiffed hair who stepped in front of her.

“Louisa,” said Margaret Windeyer, gently taking her arm. “Please do not leave yet.”

Someone in the crowd turned and, recognising the woman in the doorway, called out.

“Mrs Lawson! Louisa Lawson is here.”

Others in the crowd called her name.

“Louisa.”

“Louisa Lawson.”

A startled expression which quickly turned to pleasure crossed the woman’s face. She stepped back into the room. Hands began to clap.
The speeches had ceased. All those on the podium joined in the applause. A wave of enthusiasm brought the whole audience to its feet. Long, voluminous skirts swished as the women rose from their seats and turned toward the back of the room.

Louisa Lawson was swept by a torrent of excitement down the aisle and up to the podium. Miss Rose Scott, a genteel lady and secretary of the Womanhood Suffrage League, applauded her onto the platform. Miss Scott, her fair hair curling out from under a pert hat, raised her hand to silence the audience After following the customary protocol of acknowledging honourable and distinguished guests she then focused on Louisa Lawson.

“This lady is the pioneer who started our journey. She was the first to give public voice to our cause. By the time she joined us as a founding member of the League she had already fought fiercely for womanhood suffrage through her excellent newspaper, The Dawn, and later the Dawn Club. It gives me much pleasure to welcome, Mrs Louisa Lawson, the mother of womanhood suffrage in NSW.”

A storm of applause broke forth and thundered through the room. As she stepped forward, her bearing radiating dignity and pride, Louisa Lawson sent a silent message to a departed one. I told you I would make the world a better place for women, Mother.

………………….

JB (I am still working on my next book, a murder mystery set in Australia, but cannot name a date for its release as yet.)

The sequel to Whisper My Secret is finally done! Writing Mother of Ten took me on a journey to a secret sanctuary in my mind where remembrances sheltered. As the pages of my memory album turned, I realised what a carefree and joyous childhood I had been blessed with.

While poverty restrained us in many ways, it also gave us freedom. Because we were poor, we lived in the bush but that in itself was a source of insouciant pleasure. Creeks, rivers, mountains and hectares of eucalyptus forests became our playground and, in some ways, our home.

One of the memories featured in Mother of Ten is a visit to my father’s workplace; the woodcutters’ camp.

There were men everywhere, some with axes and some with saws: strong men with the broad shoulders and calloused hands of hard-working bushmen. White Australians with faces tanned to mahogany brown from daily exposure to the sun were barely discernible from Aboriginal Australians. Some men worked with shirt sleeves rolled up, revealing their tanned forearms. Others wore blue or white singlets fully exposing their muscled arms. They all wore long pants and boots and most heads were covered by hats or berets.  (Italics indicate quotes from Mother of Ten.)

Bluey, the camp cook, used to make tea for us all at break time.

Bluey was a big man with thick red hair and freckles all over his face. His old hat was held together in places with large safety pins.

One day when we were sitting around the camp fire I learned that Bluey had once been tricked into thinking there was a ghost roaming in the bush. Late one night he had heard someone playing the mouth organ not far from their camp. There were no other camps nearby so the men thought it odd that someone would be walking through the trees in the dark playing the mouth organ. When Bluey and a couple of the men went to investigate, they were unable to locate the musician.

“Whenever I got close to the sound it’d stop. Then it’d start up again in another direction and further way. So off we’d go in the direction of the music and, blow me down, if it didn’t move to another spot again, still playin’ the same tune.”

Apparently, Bluey wanted to pack up camp and head back to town until they eventually worked out that the musician was not a ghost but a lyrebird. These ground dwelling brown birds can mimic any sound they hear. In fact, a lyrebird can mimic the sound of an axe so precisely that even the woodcutters cannot tell the difference.

Happy memories of fun and family should be the gift given to each and every child born on this Earth. Alas, this is not the case. It certainly was not the case for the three children my mother bore before she started her second family with my father. Although Mum’s eldest child, Bertie, did eventually grow up in a family environment, it was far from joyous. Bertie’s brother and sister were, like thousands of other children in Australia, robbed of family life and brought up in institutions. Another quest that Mother of Ten took me on was the mental pilgrimage through the lives of these children.

An Inquiry conducted by the Australian Senate in 2003 and 2004 received over 600 submissions from people who, as children, had been in institutions in Australia from the 1920s to the 1990s. The 2009 report of this Inquiry, known as Forgotten Australians, states:

‘…the overwhelming response as to treatment in care, even among those that made positive comments, was the lack of love, affection and nurturing that was never provided to young children at critical times during their emotional development.’

The two journeys that evolved for me through the writing of Mother of Ten epitomise the contrast between the childhood I took for granted and was privileged to enjoy, and the childhood forced on each of my half-siblings. But, although Mother of Ten explores their heartbreak, the book also celebrates their resilience, resourcefulness and determination, as well as their triumph.

What lies behind the title? The title was inspired by a reader of Whisper My Secret who was one of those that generously took the time to email me and share her thoughts after reading the book. When she mentioned she was a mother of ten, I thought, ‘Mother of ten, same as my mum.’ That was when I first considered calling the book Mother of Ten. I realised it neatly fulfilled my wish to have a title that was somehow inclusive of all of Myrtle’s children. It works on another level as well because that was Myrtle’s secret: the fact that she was a mother of ten. I also like the way the titles can be linked by two simple words to form a sentence: Whisper My Secret: I’m a Mother of Ten. I love playing with words so that aspect of the title kinda tickles my fancy.

Now Mother of Ten has started her own journey I am off on my next writer’s journey. This time it’s a whodunnit!

Until we meet again… JB:-)

Update June 2013: At the end of Mother of Ten I inserted an amendment about the death of Myrtle’s father as described in Whisper My Secret . However,we have now discovered a record of the inquest into his death which confirms that the original information indicating his death resulted from a self inflicted gunshot wound was accurate after all.

More about the writing of  Whisper My Secret.

Photos of Myrtle and family

Oh, by the way, talking about lyrebirds, here’s a link to a superb new picture book called: Lyrebird: a true story

Those who read books now have more power than ever before. The independent publishing movement spurred on by electronic and POD (Print On Demand) publishing means that readers of books now have direct access to the work of authors and millions of new titles at affordable prices.

To a large extent what readers chose to read was once controlled by those who published books. Traditional publishers decided what readers would or would not be interested in. If those few influential gatekeepers decided that those who read books would not be interested in the work of particular authors, such authors would find it difficult or impossible to have their work published and available to readers. What was unfair to readers (and to authors) was that publishers did not necessarily make their choices about books on whether a book was well written, or presented a good story. They made business decisions based on how many copies of a particular book they thought they might be able to sell. That meant that a book written by someone who had established a public profile, or someone who had media contacts willing to promote them and their book, was more likely to be published than a book that simply presented a well written story e.g. (if I might be so bold) Whisper My Secret.

Writers, especially emerging writers, had to stand in line behind celebrities such as television personalities, football players, and even criminals. Books by people such as these were considered suitable for readers because they were guaranteed to make money for the publisher. Some publishing companies had political reasons for refusing to accept a writer’s book. In Australia publishers are often interested in publishing books written by Aboriginal people and refugees but prejudiced against ‘white’ Australians. When ‘white’ Australian author Leon Carmen wrote My Own Sweet Time as the autobiography of an Aboriginal woman, Wanda Koolmatrie, he got his book published almost instantly, despite previously failing to become published under his own identity. His second book, again submitted as Wanda Koolmatrie, was also accepted for publication but the offer was withdrawn when he revealed he was not Aboriginal. John Bayley, who posed as Carmen’s literary agent reported on the Tuesday Book Club that a producer told him ‘she wouldn’t look at a play script I submitted that had a white middle aged, Anglo Celtic male as its author’.

Such choices made by publishing gatekeepers meant that many excellent writers were not given the opportunity to reach readers. Some of those writers have been forced to give up writing to focus on the jobs that earn them money. One such writer is Robert Bidinotto, author of the best-selling book Hunter. Disillusionment had caused him to suppress his ‘dream of publishing novels’ until he heard about the Indie publishing movement. Now his book has been read by thousands. While some writers gave up writing to focus on earning a living, others may have come to the conclusion, as a result of repeated rejections from publishers, that their writing was simply not good enough and given up writing in despair. All of those writers were lost to readers.

The good news for readers is that writers are now being encouraged to write! Readers now have access to a wide range of writers including those who simply wish to write a good story for others to read. Readers can read or not read according to personal taste, without being limited to what publishers think they should read. Readers have helped to make Ania Ahlborn’s  gothic horror novel Seed a top selling title now being optioned by Amazon Studios. Ania went directly to readers by self publishing her book in 2010. Those readers spread the word and the novel climbed the charts. Fifty Shades of Grey is another best seller that owes its early success to reader power. It was originally published as an e-book and a POD paperback by The Writer’s Coffee Shop, a small publisher with a restricted budget for marketing relying on book bloggers and readers to spread the word.

As a reader I am delighted that I have access to books that I might not otherwise have had the opportunity to read. As a writer I am thrilled that Whisper My Secret, originally published in paperback by the small publisher  Zeus Publications and rejected by many publishers in Australia has, as an e-book, already reached almost 40 000 readers. The book’s success (as well as the feedback sent directly to me by readers) has detonated my motivation to write.

Until next time…JB :-)

About Whisper My Secret

Whisper My Secret

Trapped in Gondwana

 

Pekanbaru Library on the island of Sumatra is one of the most impressive library buildings I have ever seen but the empty book shelves and the sight of out-dated books published in the 1970s and 80s saddened me.  When I visited the library on a trip to Indonesia a couple of years ago the head librarian, a tall man dressed in a uniform reminiscent of army fatigues, graciously met with me to discuss the library system in Indonesia. I had several picture books with me that I had brought over from Australia. When I showed him a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, his eyes widened and his mouth dropped. His look of astonished enchantment increased with each page. At the end of the book, he asked in an awed tone, “Where can I get such a book?”

The reaction of Indonesian teachers to Eric Carle’s masterpiece was similar. One teacher, who  immediately grasped the beauty of the book’s simplicity and its educational value, highlighted the lessons embedded in the story as she turned the pages: “Colours, numbers, days of the week, food, biology…” Millions of children have enjoyed the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar without even noticing that it was teaching them so many things. What a gift Eric Carle has given to generations of wide-eyed children.

Like many children in Indonesia I had little access to books as a kid growing up in the Australian bush. However, I was lucky enough to be given the gift of story by an aunt who sent books each Christmas, knowing that my parents could not afford such luxuries. Those beautifully bound books of literature classics gave me hours of reading pleasure, escape from my real world, a love of stories and probably extensive education that I was not aware of at the time.

That love of stories stayed with me and led me to oral storytelling and writing. I feel privileged to be able to use my skills to give the gift of story. Although I would not attempt to emulate Eric Carle’s magnificent picture book I hope that children reading my chapter book, Trapped in Gondwana, will benefit from the pleasure of reading a good story and escaping from their real world while being unaware of the lessons they are learning about the evolution of the earth, the environment, threatened species, personal growth and more.

I wonder if Trapped in Gondwana is the book that I boasted about to my mother when I was still a scrawny bush kid in the early 1960s.

“One day,” I said to her, “I’m going to write a best-selling book.”

My mother replied, “One day I might give you something to write about.”

It wasn’t until after her death almost forty years later that she gifted me her story by leaving papers, previously hidden, for her children to find, which revealed her secret. When I put together the pieces of the puzzle presented by the paperwork, I remembered the promise she had made to me. At the same time I recalled one of her favourite sayings: “You can say anything you like about me when I am dead.” That was how I knew she had given me permission to write her story and the licence to write it as I saw fit.  Her legacy to me was the gift of story. Perhaps it is her story Whisper My Secret and not Trapped in Gondwana about which I heralded great success with my grandiloquent boast. (Fingers crossed for both!)

Whatever the fate of my books in terms of sales, I do believe that the gift of story is one of the most precious gifts we can give, not only to children, but to each other. Apart from bestowing books whether print, electronic or audio, we can also give the gift of story in other ways. Sharing our stories, whether by telling and listening or by writing and reading, is a profound gift which binds families, communities, friends and nations through the creation of understanding, empathy and a sense of connection.

Until next time…JB :-)

Whisper My Secret

Trapped in Gondwana

About Whisper My Secret

Why I Envy Librarians

Books for Indonesian kids

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

My father’s love letters to my mother show that, although Whisper My Secret is a heart wrenching story of loss and separation, it is also a story of romance and enduring love. When my mother, Myrtle Webb, was forced to give up her first three children, she walked into the arms of a man whose passion and love for her endured through time, through poverty, hardship and illness.

I’ll let my father speak for himself through two of his letters to my mother. I have quoted from both of these letters in Whisper My Secret and I thought you might like to see copies of the originals. (You might prefer to finish the book before reading the letters.)

The first one was written in 1945 when Dad was still in the army and desperate to get out to be with Myrtle and their first-born, Bobby.

The second one was written almost twenty years later in 1964, when Dad was in the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne terminally with leukaemia while Mum and us kids were miles away in Orbost. It is clear that his anguish at being separated from Myrtle was just as strong as it ever was.

Click on the images to make them larger.

For those of you who find my father’s handwriting difficult to read, I have transcribed the letters below.

Transcription of army letter 1945:

VX.62956 A.G.Rowley, 140 A.C.T. Coy, Site 16, Seymour, Vic

Dearest “Myrtle”,

Hello, “darl”, how are you today? It’s the old man again. Gosh, that makes me feel old as hell, ah well I guess we are getting old aren’t we? Well, I don’t know what to write about, “love”.

Well, there’s blokes here getting out every day all around me. There’s two went yesterday and three more today and there’s two more next week I know of. All except me. I guess my turn will come eh, “love”?

Well, “darl’ is there anything you want or anything about the place you don’t like up there. If there is just let me know and I’ll try and fix things up for you, do my best anyway, “Myrtle”. Well “Myrtle” how is “Bobby” getting on now, “darl”? I hope he’s alright. Well, “darl”, I’ll soon know now whether I can get out on my wrist in another 6 or 8 days or so.

[The top of this page is covered in kisses and a message under the kisses reads: All my love to you “darl’.]

I hope so anyway. Boy, I hope they say out of it altogether. Well, “darling” there doesn’t seem to be much to tell you except that this silly “sergeant’ here is trying to make me work hard and I’m just not going to do what he wants. I mean I am not going to ruin my wrist just for him, hang him. He thinks I am just putting it on and reckons it isn’t really sore at all. Well, I’ll give him something to think about. I’ve just been and saw the medical “sergeant” and he’s going to fix it up for me.

Well, “darl” I hope to see you soon and all my “love” and kisses from your ever loving “Husband”, George. All my love, “darl” and young “Bobby” – give him my love will you, “Myrtle”.

[The rest of this page is filled with kisses.]

Whisper My Secret is available as an ebook here:

Transcription of letter from Alfred Hospital, 1964

17.9.64,A.G.H. Rowley,Ward 23,Alfred Hospital,Prahran Vic

Dear Myrtle,

I got your letter today written on 12/9/64. Well, Myrtle, I don’t know when I will be home. It seems like they are testing me still. I don’t know what they are up to. I suppose I will have to leave it to them. I had a blood transfusion a couple of days ago.

How are you managing, Myrtle? I hope everything is going alright for you. Yes, I miss you a lot too but what can I do? It’s in the doctors’ hands and they don’t tell you much. Tell Peter I hope it’s very soon, because I’m a bit sick of hospital.

What did Joiner and Cross come over for? Just a sticky beak I s’pose.

Now, look Myrtle you want to look after yourself and don’t sit up at night because I’m quite alright. As a matter of fact I feel pretty good but I still sweat at night and I get a temp [temperature] now and again. Now you get your sleep and don’t worry. They will probably get sick of me before long. I hope so anyway. I weigh 10.10 [10 stone 10 lbs/68 kg] That was last Sunday but I think I have put on some now because they are giving vitamin tablets and I am eating pretty well.

I better go now but keep writing, Myrtle. I look forward to your letters. Look after yourself. Love from George. [Row of kisses here]

Notes:

1: ‘Peter’ is my youngest brother who was still a toddler when my father became ill. Peter he fretted for his father when Dad was in hospital.

2: My father has referred to two of the local men by their surnames (‘Joiner’ and ‘Cross’).

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Until next time… JB :-)

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