A house divided… Conversations at Curlow Creek

Conversations at Curlow Creek is a novel set in the early days of the colony of NSW by David Malouf. The novel that talks of an officers duties to hang Daniel Carney, a bushranger. Prior to the hanging though, he spends a night in a cottage with the prisoner. The novel is of the conversations between the two.

The Officer, Adair, is of two minds. It is not a moral paradox that he has but a personal one. Adair has come to Australia not merely to be a trooper, but to find his lost step-brother, who has reportedly become a bushranger in NSW. It seems that the head of the bushranger gang  that the condemned man was a part of, could possibly be Fergus, the lost sibling; although the name being used by the leader was Dolan.

No conclusion is reached about the true identity of the gang leader. Adair had not resolved the matter. At the same time, the enemy had become known, and perhaps loved.  Adair and Carney have many parallels in their lives. Both grew up in Ireland and both were orphans.  The difference comes in the opportunities presented to Adair as a boy. he was taken in by a friend of the mother, whom he had never known, and educated by a landowner who took an interest in the lad.

So it is that Adair builds a rapport with Carney. It is with a heavy heart that he must carry out his duties to hang the man. He allows him to wash in the creek, to prepare himself for death, and is reminded of a dream that he has in a moments sleep during the night. He wants the man to feel comfort in his death and provides him with hot tea.

No man can serve two masters, Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Adair is in a dilemma. He must remain true to himself, his heritage and do in his heart what is right, or obey those who have employed him and provide his ages.

The last page of the epilogue tells us of Adair breaking and eating bread. This reminded me of the communion celebration in the Catholic church. One is not able to partake of the communion without first seeking reconciliation with God through the forgiveness of sin. Has Adair then forgiven himself for the sin that was committed? i the sin committed that of taking another’s life, b way of hanging, as was his duty? Or was his supposed sin allowing the escape of Carney, and therefore the sin is against the community and authorities that have hired him to do the job? The issues remain unresolved. I hope to ask the questions of David Malouf when our class meets with him in two weeks time.

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Baked

A boy wanted to keep company, father said.

“He’s a good lad, son of the baker, Tom Woods”

Father organised a meeting for us.  James was to call after church on Sunday and wander with me in the garden.

“I brought you this” said young James. He handed over a loaf of bread, freshly baked.

“I baked it myself, my papa showed me how”.

Such a humble gift, but I received it graciously.

“Mary, We shall have tea and bread in the garden”.

The bread was presented with the tea, I saw it at once. My heart was won.

word count 99

Done for Friday Fictioneers

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Mark Twain: The Somber Side

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In our American Literature class, we have looked at Mark Twain as a person who can write from Experience and from the heart. He is able to sympathise and identify with the common man. Mark Twain had a family, which is not often written about.

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) married Olivia Langdon in 1870. ‘Lily’ as she was known was a constant companion for her husband, accompanying him on lecture and book publishing tours. Lily often edited Twain’s work, sometimes somewhat critically.

The couple had 4 children, and while each gave them joy, they also brought heartache. None were without their troubles.hc-pictures-140-anniversary-of-twain-home-20140916

langdon_clemensLangdon Clemens was the first born of the Clemens children. He was the only son. Langdon was born premature in 1870. It was a hard pregnancy for Olivia when she contracted Typhoid fever. While Mark Twain was busy writing witty stories and columns, he spent a lot of his time nursing both Olivia and Langdon. Olivia’s father Jervis died that same year. Langdon got a cold on one of the journeys in April 1871 and died after it developed into diphtheria. He died in 1872 aged just 19 months. Twain blamed himself for his son’s death.

 

 

 

clemenssusy_headstone Second born was Olivia Susan Clemens. Suzy was born in March 1872. She was a happy playful girl who at times became very deep in thought when trying to understand aspects of life and its struggles. While the family was overseas and Suzy at college, she contracted Meningitis and died at age 24.

This is the headstone of Suzy’s grave which is in the Clemens plot in Elmira New York, Composer Dan Forrest was searching for some lyrics to go with a song which he had written for a little girl’s funeral. He found this epitaph in the graveyard close to his home. Dan wrote Good Night Dear Heart from the words of Mark Twain.

220px-Ossip_Gabrilowitsch_&_Clara_ClemensClara was the third of the Clemen’s children. She was born in 1874 and spent most of her early years being home-schooled as she travelled with her father. Clara was sent to boarding school in Berlin for later schooling. The whole family moved to Austria in 1896 so that Clara could study piano. Following her mother’s death in 1905 Clara had a nervous breakdown. in 1909, she married the Russian composer Ossip Gabrilowitsch. Her father died not long after that and Twain did not get to see his only grandchild, Nina who was born not long after. Clara was the only one of the Clemens children to live a long life, and she died aged 88 in 1962.

DSCN0175Jane (or Jean as she was nicknamed) Clemens was born in 1880. When 18 years old, she developed Epilepsy. Twain said of Jean, “There was never a kinder heart than Jean’s”. During her childhood, she gave most of her allowance to charities and had a heart for animals. Jean began two charities for the protection of animals and because of this love, her father had bought her a farm. Jean’s epilepsy was severe at times, causing her to have spells in sanatoriums for her recovery. She was never alone, and a trusted maid accompanied her on shopping trips and helped Jean with her daily needs. On Christmas Day 1909, she had a fit while in the bath and was drowned.

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Twain was heartbroken. “She was all I had left, except Clara, who married Mr. Gabrilowitsch lately, and has just arrived in Europe.” Twain said to gathered journalists on the morning of her death. “My daughter was trimming the tree yesterday and I was helping her,” he said. “She was so anxious that the lads and lassies of the neighborhood should have a tree, so we brought this one in and began to trim it for them. Tomorrow there were to have trooped in to see the tree and to get presents from it”.

 

 

A life full of sorrow and grief. Mark Twain died just 4 months later, in April 1910 of a heart attack in Redding Connecticut. He was buried alongside the others in the family who had passed before in the family plot in Elmira.the-family-plot-of-mark

Apologies with some of the typesetting. I bet Twain never had these problems.

Dave

Some of the websites visited:

http://www.design.caltech.edu/erik/Misc/Twain_eulogy.html

http://www.marktwainhouse.org/man/clemens_family_tree.php

http://www.marktwainhannibal.com/twain/biography/family.shtml

http://www.marktwainonline.com/site/577770/page/924842

http://www.marktwainonline.com/site/577770/page/924743

http://www.twainquotes.com/19091225.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Twain

 

 

 

 

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Mark Twain, prose writer and protester.

Mark Twain has been called “the Father of American Literature” and his work Huckleberry Finn the Great American Novel.

Samuel Clements was his real name. He took the name Mark Twain after his time as a riverboat captain on the Mississippi river; Mark Twain meaning deep water, of a safe place to passage.

Mark Twain is taken, on face value, as a humourist. He was the master of colloquial language. This is what brought him success as a writer.

A lot of his writing comes from his own experiences. While looking at his biography, I was amazed at how much he did during his life. Twain tells us to write what we know. It is because twain had a lot of life experience that his writing could be so diverse and plentiful.

Twain knew what it was like to be poor, he knew what it was like to have plenty…and then to lose it all again. He started life as a poor boy who had to leave school at 10 to work in the mines. He made a lot of money with his works and with his lectures and essays. Twain was a master in the newspaper and magazine world while he was still working in the area. Then he lost it all when he invested in a printing or typesetting machine that was too complex to run.

Mark Twain became outspoken in his later years and spoke greatly against Imperialism. America was going to war with Spain to make the Phillipines an American territory. Twain thought at first that America was trying to liberate the Phillipines to create a new republic with their own government. It was when he discovered that the Phillipines were not to be free but come under the power of an Imperialist American government, he penned a short prose entitled The War Prayer.

This is a dramatised version of that short story.

Mark Twain was saying to us, to think before we act or even pray. For praying for victory in battle is to pray that some fellow humans lose, not only their battle, but their lives.

Twain accomplished something that  I too wish to do with my writing. While my main mission remains the same… “to bring beauty to those who cannot see it for themselves”, I choose also to highlight the atrocities of war, of cruelty and injustice done to all people of the world, in hopes that by highlighting, people who in a position to stop the abhorrent acts committed against fellow human beings, may read my words and be persuaded to act.

Twain told us that in remaining silent, we perpetuate the lie that all is well. To ignore atrocities is to endorse them. Let us act with compassion towards our fellow humans. If we as single voices cannot cause change in the hearts of a regime who promotes injustice and inhumane acts, then we as a collective can do more by uniting our voices, in protest against those acts.  We need to make our voices public.

Twain by writing the War Prayer was voicing his disgust at the senseless violence of war. By writing Huckleberry Finn, he was using sarcasm and irony to voice his opinion about slavery. The novel is in fact about freedom. Freedom not only of the slave Tom, but freedom for Huck, from people who would bind him, cause him to conform to society and their practices.

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Bailed Up by Tom Roberts

This was one of the paintings that was looked at by my class as they wandered the great halls of the NSW Art Gallery last week.

This painting entitled “Bailed Up”, by Tom Roberts, has been a favorite of mine since 5th grade in primary school. It hung on the white wall outside the deputy principals office. I remember sitting there waiting to see him and looking at the painting and wondering about the lives of the people in the painting.

The painting was done ‘plein air ‘ in Inverell in 1895. Tom Roberts used people from the nearby township to act as models so he could paint it. The painting depicted a Cobb and Co stagecoach being held up by Captain Thunderbolt, a local bushranger.  One of the models was an actual stagecoach driver by the name of ‘Silent’ Bob Bates.  This stagecoach driver had actually been held up by Captain Thunderbolt 30 years earlier. One could speculate that Tom Roberts shared a billy of tea with Silent Bob, and asked him about that experience before setting the scene to paint it.

The coach in the painting was typical of the Concord coaches used by Cobb & Co. These were made in America. The suspension used was a belt type, which made long distance travel more comfortable for passengers. The coaches were made for the west in America and were built for rough terrain and high speeds which were needed to avoid raids by Indians and outlaws.

One can see the Royal Mail logo on the side of the coach in the painting. Cobb & Co had the contract for the mail from the 1860’s through to the end of the first world war.

The Cobb & Co coaches were faster than other coaches. Because of that speed, horses had to be changed regularly, and so a whole industry was built around the transport of people and parcels. The horses were bred especially for Cobb &Co. Coach houses were built every 200 miles or so for a quick change of horses and a meal for travelers. Some of the coach houses had accommodation for overnight travelers.

The Cobb & Co coaches became synonymous for a strong willed spirit that kept going through the hard times. Cobb & Co was immortalised through the Tom Roberts painting as well as in literature through poems by Henry Lawson.

The Lights of Cobb & Co

FIRE LIGHTED, on the table a meal for sleepy men,
A lantern in the stable, a jingle now and then;
The mail coach looming darkly by light of moon and star,
The growl of sleepy voices — a candle in the bar.
A stumble in the passage of folk with wits abroad;
A swear-word from a bedroom — the shout of ‘ All aboard!’
‘Tchk-tchk! Git-up!’ ‘Hold fast, there!’ and down the range we go;
Five hundred miles of scattered camps will watch for Cobb and Co.

Old coaching towns already ‘ decaying for their sins,’
Uncounted ‘Half-Way Houses,’ and scores of ‘Ten Mile Inns;’
The riders from the stations by lonely granite peaks;
The black-boy for the shepherds on sheep and cattle creeks;
The roaring camps of Gulgong, and many a ‘Digger’s Rest;’
The diggers on the Lachlan; the huts of Farthest West;
Some twenty thousand exiles who sailed for weal or woe;
The bravest hearts of twenty lands will wait for Cobb and Co.

The morning star has vanished, the frost and fog are gone,
In one of those grand mornings which but on mountains dawn;
A flask of friendly whisky — each other’s hopes we share —
And throw our top-coats open to drink the mountain air.
The roads are rare to travel, and life seems all complete;
The grind of wheels on gravel, the trot of horses’ feet,
The trot, trot, trot and canter, as down the spur we go —
The green sweeps to horizons blue that call for Cobb and Co.

We take a bright girl actress through western dust and damps,
To bear the home-world message, and sing for sinful camps,
To wake the hearts and break them, wild hearts that hope and ache —
(Ah! when she thinks of those days her own must nearly break!)
Five miles this side the gold-field, a loud, triumphant shout:
Five hundred cheering diggers have snatched the horses out:
With ‘Auld Lang Syne’ in chorus through roaring camps they go —
That cheer for her, and cheer for Home, and cheer for Cobb and Co.

Three lamps above the ridges and gorges dark and deep,
A flash on sandstone cuttings where sheer the sidings sweep,
A flash on shrouded waggons, on water ghastly white;
Weird bush and scattered remnants of rushes in the night
Across the swollen river a flash beyond the ford:
‘Ride hard to warn the driver! He’s drunk or mad, good Lord!’
But on the bank to westward a broad, triumphant glow —
A hundred miles shall see to-night the lights of Cobb and Co.!

Swift scramble up the siding where teams climb inch by inch;
Pause, bird-like, on the summit — then breakneck down the pinch
Past haunted half-way houses — where convicts made the bricks —
Scrub-yards and new bark shanties, we dash with five and six —
By clear, ridge-country rivers, and gaps where tracks run high,
Where waits the lonely horseman, cut clear against the sky;
Through stringy-bark and blue-gum, and box and pine we go;
New camps are stretching ‘cross the plains the routes of Cobb and Co.

*****

Throw down the reins, old driver — there’s no one left to shout;
The ruined inn’s survivor must take the horses out.
A poor old coach hereafter! — we’re lost to all such things —
No bursts of songs or laughter shall shake your leathern springs
When creeping in unnoticed by railway sidings drear,
Or left in yards for lumber, decaying with the year —
Oh, who’ll think how in those days when distant fields were broad
You raced across the Lachlan side with twenty-five on board.

Not all the ships that sail away since Roaring Days are done —
Not all the boats that steam from port, nor all the trains that run,
Shall take such hopes and loyal hearts — for men shall never know
Such days as when the Royal Mail was run by Cobb and Co.
The ‘greyhounds’ race across the sea, the ‘special’ cleaves the haze,
But these seem dull and slow to me compared with Roaring Days!
The eyes that watched are dim with age, and souls are weak and slow,
The hearts are dust or hardened now that broke for Cobb and Co.

Dave

References used for this blog
https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/833/
http://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/cobb-and-co
https://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/lawson-henry/the-lights-of-cobb-and-co-0022012

 

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Donald Trump’s Dog

If Donald Trump had a dog, would it be called a Trump-pet?

many thanks to Playbuzz and Boredpanda for the image.

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The Tree of Man: Patrick White

Baz Luhrmann would have done well to choose this novel to base his movie Australia on, as it truly reflects life in Australia.

This novel follows the life of a man and his wife, Stan and Amy Parker, as they move from pioneers, breaking bush to establish a home, to the modern day, a world of machines and strangers.

There are various events through the book that expose what it must have been like to live in the bush, as a settler and a citizen of Australia. There is so much in this book that reminds me of my own experiences growing up.

You must go through the clearing of the bush to set up home,

When my dad bought the land at Blacktown for 500 pound, it was uncleared, full of ghost gums, tea trees, paperbarks and stubborn pine trees. They built the house with no neighbours around. Some moved in, but there was still space to play, to mow a cricket patch in the back yard, to raise goats and ducks and hens and children. We built a BMX track around the fenceline and later a car track as my brother and I learnt to drive and ride motorcycles.

We learnt to fight fires. We kept a stack of wet hessian bags by the back tap and at the first sign of smoke the alarm would be raised with the shout “FIRE!” Men and boys would come running, and the women huddled together and provided cake and tea for those of us who fought it.

We lived next to a creek, which flooded every year or so. It wasn’t much trouble though, except for old Mrs Ferguson, who still lived in her wooden house in the hollow, with the dirt floors. The only thing you had to make sure of was that you weren’t fishing for carp or eels when the waters were pushed downstream. We would watch out the kitchen window as the waters rose. The chicken coop was up high enough, the ducks and vegetable patch didn’t mind the extra water that splashed over the banks.

We learnt to read the wind, to know if it was going to be a problem with the trees falling on the houses as limbs separated from trunks. We tied the old ironbark back so if it did fall, it would fall to empty land, not in the direction of the house or chook pen. We shut doors and windows and felt the house shook as the sound of the wind roared through the leaves and branches of the trees.

We had loyal dogs. They respected dad and kept quiet around him but when it was just us kids, they became animated and excited to be included in our games or oversee us so we wouldn’t get into too much trouble.

Thankfully we never had to follow our mates as they march into war. We earned our pocket money doing chores and a paper run.

You learn to read the animals, to live with them, to put up with them or have them put up with you. Snakes? Turn around and walk away. They will go away, then you can come get your feed of blackberries. When the frogs breed, you know that there is going to be rain enough to fill that little natural trough and the frogs will grow beyond the stage of tadpole… if little boys let them. Magpies are homebodies, keep away from the trees where they are when they are nesting, better still offer them food and they will leave you alone, and even avoid your car when toileting from above. It’s the cockies you have to watch out for, they are just mad.

The book showed that one must marry, watch the children grow and have families of their own. Children make decisions and have lifestyles that you don’t necessarily agree with, but you have to shut up, and accept them because they are your kids. Parents can be proud about their children’s accomplishments and brag on those, while being humble about their own brave feats.

Patrick White shows us in this book that to be a spiritual being, one must learn how to read the land. In the book; Disputed Territories: Land, Culture and Identity in Settler Societies, By David S. Trigger, Gareth Griffiths , Neville White writes in chapter 7 how he had brought two elders from the Yolngu nation to Melbourne. The men complained that there was too much noise that they couldn’t hear the land. They couldn’t feel the breeze. they wondered where men lived, and how it was possible that some people in this land of plenty were hungry. “Where is his family?” they asked.

Image result for albert tucker paintings

The Horned Intruder- Albert Tucker

The white man, the settlers have intruded on the land, because they do not read it correctly, and try to manipulate it to their own ends. Nature still wins out. Look at Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana. Look at the amount of homeless people due to floods in Bangladesh. These natural occurrences happen, and we as ‘man’ have to put up with it, to cope. Because life goes on.

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on”. Robert Frost

For those who are not connected to the land, who are not spiritual beings, the day to day running of life can seem like a chore. Life goes on, day after day after day.

 

 

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