Chapter one – part three

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Singing woman on grey background

So far in Embraceable You ….

School girl Josefine Hanrahan has been a boarder at Our Lady of Dolores for most of her childhood. Today is her eighteenth birthday but it’s a  lonely birthday. Josefine finds it difficult to make friends and the other girls don’t like her. Her father is Australia’s richest man but he’s a lousy father. Today, Josefine is going to break free …

For the ten years that she’d been a boarder at Our Lady, Josefine had the largest room in the building, much bigger than the college tutor’s apartment down on the ground floor. She had defied the convention of moving rooms when she graduated to middle school and then to the high school and stayed in her renovated double quarters. For a decade, Josefine had been able to gaze at the ducks on the lake in either of two stained glass windows, if she wanted to.

On that particular frosty mid-May morning, however, that was not what she wanted to do. As soon as she finished her hot chocolate, what she planned to do was pack up her tenor saxophone and make her way, sans permission, to the Japanese mist sculpture garden beside the National Art Gallery. There, she would play her mother’s favourite song “Embraceable You” until her mouth bled and, through every rendition, she would imagine that Liv was right there behind her with her cool hand on her shoulder, preparing to sing in her surprisingly clear confident Ella Fitzgerald, bluesy voice. Her long black lashes would line her eyelids like a pair of little dark smiles and the sound of love and longing would rise up through the mist like it used to when she was alive.

As a little girl, Josefine had Liv with her for six wonderful years, followed by two more not-so-wonderful years while her beautiful Danish mother suffered through a slow, wasting death in her home town. In the pretty fjord town of Vejle, Liv was weak, thin and pale all the time. Trying to pack so much into too short a time, she would hold her daughter’s face in her hands, smile into her eyes and tell her that she was loved. Then she would sing until she had to stop for the coughing.

Why do you have to leave me?”  How she ached to voice her anguish but Mormor made her promise that she’d never ask Liv that question.

Liv took Josefine to Denmark to be out of St John’s reach, to thwart his intention to send their daughter to send her to boarding school. The Jutland Peninsular was not really beyond the reach of Australia’s Richest, of course, but they were sufficiently out of his thoughts for Liv to be permitted to fade with Josefine close to her, cramming all the mothering she could, into the dying years. Most mornings they would retreat somewhere, just the young woman and her daughter.

Without musical accompaniment, Liv would sing. In their second year in Vejle, Mormor had brought out an old saxophone and presented it to Josefine for Christmas. When the girl took to the instrument as if born to play, Morfar gave her proper lessons and then she realized the saxophone was his and she noticed that Liv’s passion for jazz was something she shared with her father. With or without the saxophone, Liv would let her long, dark hair fall forward over one shoulder, close her blue-as-the-sky eyes and let her voice soar.

Embraceable You.

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About lynettefinch

Dr Lynette Finch. Once I was a poster designer and illustrator. I ran a small poster business called Mantis Prints, specializing in political posters during the odd days of the Bjelke-Petersen Government in Queensland. I’m told my posters hung on the walls of Rizhsky railway station in Moscow, although I’m not sure about that. They are in the collections of the Queensland Art Gallery, on several on-line websites, and in the following book: Lynne Seear and Julie Ewington, eds. Light II, Contemporary Australian Art 1966-2006, Queensland Art Gallery Publishing, 2007, pp. 110-117. In my next incarnation I was a senior lecturer in history. I published books and articles on urban health and feeding people in modern industrial cities, on the Queensland home front in the second world war and the role and history of war propaganda. Sometimes I wrote about Marxism and its impact around the world as well as intimate oral histories of communists in Australia, their experiences in conservative society, their role as social and political radicals in small towns and cities. Once I went through a death phase and wrote about the role of the Coroners Court in colonial society, about abortion and infanticide in nineteenth century cities, and about the role of gossip in policing. My research took a decidedly happier direction when I was granted an Arts Fellowship to Antarctica in the 2007/08 season, as research for a biography about Antarctic surveyor and explorer Syd Kirkby. I bunkered down in a blizzard in Brooke's hut near Davis station and imagined what it was like for Syd, caught for twelve days in a 150-knot blizzard, high in the plateau beyond Mawson in 1960. Some of my books: Australia’s Frontline: Remembering the 1939-45 War. With the rapid escalation of the Pacific War in 1942, Queenslanders suddenly found themselves perilously close to the frontline, especially those in the far north. The book is based on interviews of men and women who worked their farms in the north, some of them Italians and Germans who were interned as enemy aliens. Nevertheless, the book is essentially a story of courage, of community spirit and neighbourliness, and of the public and private war effort of a community facing crisis and loss. Dark Angel: Propaganda in Modern Warfare. This book traces the origins and development of propaganda and media manipulation from the 1800s to today’s ‘spin’ and ‘false news’. Why have governments at war allocated resources to propaganda leaflets, broadcasts, movies and art during major military conflicts? Read the book. You’ll find the answer. The Classing Gaze: Sexuality, Class and Surveillance. Concepts like sexuality and class share the same moment of birth during the nineteenth century as social inquiry turned to analysis of the workings, population growth, thought patterns, economic systems and internal bodily workings of humans (or Man, to be historically accurate). How did these ideological concepts impact in the real world? A great deal, is the short answer, outlined in this book. Young in a Warm Climate: a history of childhood in Queensland is an edited volume about childhood on the Queensland frontiers, at school, at home, in hospitals and other institutions. Fixing Antarctica: Mapping the Frozen South. In 1956, in the height of the cold war, the biggest wintering expedition that Australia had ever sent to Antarctica set out to map the great frozen landmass of Antarctica, driven by official fears that the Soviet Union meant to take the continent for themselves. The fourteen scientists were chosen from a field of hundreds of applicants. The surveyor, the central character in Fixing Antarctica, was Sydney Kirkby. Over the next twenty years, Syd Kirkby explored and map more unknown regions in the world than any other person in history. Earth, Wind and Fire is essentially twelve generations of my father’s mother’s family but it’s much more than that. It’s kind of Game of Thrones without the dragons. It starts with a kidnapped girl in Shelford, Nottinghamshire in the east midlands of England in 1618 and follows an unbroken chain of recorded births, deaths and marriages which spans four centuries until, six generations later, her descendants flee their farms in Ireland and join the diaspora to Australia. Using family stories, family photographs, published diaries and official documents, it’s the interwoven stories of five families struggling to survive amidst the most tumultuous times in European history. What’s next? I’m wandering into the boggy territory of creative fiction, writing a series of crime stories set on King Island, a beautiful windy island in the Bass Strait between Victoria and Tasmania. I’ve finished the first draft of Book One, The Rock. There will be seven, I think. I’m also writing a stand along novel, called The Key Collector. It’s about a World traveller, Angela who settles in a Tasmanian village near her daughter and grandson where she witnesses a car crash that kills three women. Convinced the collision was an act of murder, she digs into the tragic lives of the victims and is mired in a mystery stretching across three continents and reaching into the second world war.

One response »

  1. Building well! There’s accidental word repetition in paragraph 5. Would suggest including “her grandfather” before Mortar to anchor the reader.

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