Hello again from the Sunny Coast. As we approach Mothers’ Day, it is fitting that this month’s post is about families. The presentations that I have done this year have once again stimulated my interest in genealogy and that has been heightened by an app I have found which makes scanning photographs very easy. Consequently I have been burrowing through various records I have amassed over the years to find any photographs that may have survived the passing of time.
It was timely that out of the blue I received a friend request on Facebook from Gwen, a cousin in Perth, whom I have never met, and from her I have received photos which I have never seen of my adoptive family. It really does give you a buzz when you see images of people you have only heard mentioned but have no idea of who they were and what they looked like. For a writer, this is pure gold, so thank you Gwen. Social media comes in for a great deal of criticism but it can work extremely well at times.
I don’t normally promote things on this website, but I will make an exception to share with those of you who are Family History buffs, this new app, Photomyne, which scans and digitises your photos with ease. It then stores them on your iPad or phone as well as in “The Cloud” so you always have access to them. I have been using this for a week or two now and the results are great. It will scan a full page of a photo album and then store each image individually, though I have found the results are better if you take the time to scan each one separately. Another tip, if your album is one which has cellophane covering the photos, then take the trouble to peel back the film before scanning. The only downside I have found is that, if you are one of those annoyingly organised people, like me, I have yet to find an easy way to insert a title page to separate each group of photos in an album. You can add titles, names, year and location to each individual picture but this can be tedious.
It is also a great tool for scanning those costly birth, death and marriage certificates. I have tried it on certificates of varying dimensions and all came up well. I use an iPad, but the app can be downloaded to either an iPhone or an android so if you have old photographs that you want to safeguard, then give this a go.
Still on families, I was pleasantly surprised at how many people who came to my presentations are keen to write some kind of life story – be it a simple memoir of their own life or a longer work about their entire family. There are so many interesting stories to tell. I have been asked by the library to come back for further presentations next year, and some people expressed an interest in forming a life writing group. So my project now is to expand further on memoir writing with a view to beginning some small classes and developing a more specific presentation. Watch this space!
Consequently much of my reading recently has been on writing and memoir but I did find time to read two very enjoyable novels.
The Memory Box by Margaret Forster
I first read this book over ten years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. A young woman dies, leaving behind her six months old daughter, Catherine. Before she passes she gathers together a collection of seemingly unconnected objects – a feather, a rucksack and a hat amongst others. These, were carefully wrapped, numbered and placed in a box to be given to her child. The box remains in the attic for many years as the daughter grows up happy with her new stepmother and developing a resentment of her ‘perfect’ birth mother. After the deaths of her father and step-mother, Catherine is cleaning out the attic and comes across the box. It prompts in her an interest to discover more about why these particular items and what they meant to her mother. The book follows Catherine’s journey as she digs deeper into her mother’s life to discover the true story behind the perfect and beautiful image which was presented to her. This time I admit to finding the ending rather a let-down after reading the blurb on the cover which implies the mysterious mother was a ‘woman far more complex, surprising and dangerous than family legend has allowed.’ However, the book is well written, the characters well developed and the plot interesting. I enjoyed reading it for a second time.
The Brothers of Brigadier Station - Sarah Williams
I recently discovered Sarah Williams, an Australian rural romance author who manages to convey to readers the love of country that those who live and work in the outback must feel, despite the constant drought conditions that prevail there.
Her debut novel, set on a sprawling cattle property in North Queensland, is an enjoyable read with a cast of interesting characters. The isolation and distance of Australia is very well portrayed and the description of the surrounding country gives overseas readers a clear picture of life in the outback.
I would have liked to have seen a little more of the Lachie that Meghan fell in love with in Townsville at the beginning of the book. As it was, our first introduction to him on his outback property made him appear to be uncaring and insensitive to his new fiancé. Thus her immediate attraction to his brother, Darcy, seemed inevitable. There were missed opportunities to develop more tension and drama.
It was a story that shows the strong community feeling that exists in the outback despite what could be a very lonely and challenging existence. The welcoming friendliness from those who make their life in the bush, towards newcomers highlights clearly the difference between city and country.
I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the follow up story.
That’s all for now. Thank you for joining me and I’ll be back next month.