Category Archives: My books

Summer in 1950s Sydney

Lane Cove Gang Dec 1955

It’s summer and the temperatures in south-east Australia are in the 40s Celsius and above 100 Fahrenheit. The country’s climate catastrophists are pointing to ‘climate change’ as the cause.

But I remember the summers of my childhood in 1950s Sydney being unbearable hot. Bushfires raged everywhere. We often went barefoot and without shirts. In the evenings, we played outside until parents forced us in to sleep in bedrooms that were like ovens. No airconditioning then. Pete’s family (third from the left) once slept outside in the backyard, it was so hot. The photo above was taken of the Lane Cove gang in the summer of 1954/55.

Where I found a copy of the Lion Annual 1957

Lion Annual 1957bForemost among the books I loved as a kid were the Lion and Tiger Annuals. They were published in England but I hardly noticed the difference. Even the comic strips set in an English boarding school did not seem out of place. Boarding schools in Australia were not that much different, which is only to be expected. As I am at pains to convey in the books of my family history series, most of our institutions, manners and customs originate in Great Britain but have been modified to suit Australia’s unique conditions.

My brother received the Lion Annual and I the Tiger Annual for Christmas. We swapped, of course. They were among my favourite Christmas presents. I have such pleasant memories of taking them to a quiet corner to read on Christmas Day that some years ago I set out to collect those we received – 1956 to 1961. I had managed to collect all except the Lion Annual of 1957 – until our trip to England in 2014. One of the main purposes of the visit was for me to visit Jane Austen territory – Bath and Lyme Regis.

After spending three very enjoyable days in Bath, we (my wife and I) drove down to Lyme Regis. After walking the length of Marine Parade and venturing to the point of the Cobb, we returned to where our car was parked near the small shopping centre on Broad Street. With the intention of having a further look around we walked up Broad Street where Sanctuary Bookshop, a secondhand bookshop, caught my eye. I could never pass a bookshop like this one.

After rummaging around the shelves and piles of books I was overjoyed to find a pretty battered copy of the Lion Annual 1957. (See the photo above.) But it was a copy. I had a further look around to see if there were others. I am always looking for copies that are in better condition than the ones I have. Not finding anything, I approached one of the two gentlemen owners of the bookshop. I showed him the volume and asked him if he had any others that I perhaps had not seen. He looked at me, blinked and said in a rather plummy accent, ‘Would you please start all over again?’

Bemused, I repeated my question – slowly. This time he understood, replied in the negative and was generous enough to halve the marked price. My (Dutch) wife laughed heartily but though diverted I remained somewhat bemused until we drove out of the town. I clearly have an Australian accent but it is far from broad.

You are what you read

DSCN2846You are what you eat, people say. But I say you are what you read. This is my shelf of books on Edmund Burke – the middle shelf. Below are some of my Australian political biographies, and above one can just see my Evelyn Waugh novels and to the left some of my Australian biographies. These books have taken up a lot of my (pleasure) time.

Click on photo to enlarge

Duncan McLaren’s Evelyn Waugh tours

I have been so engaged in finishing the first book of my family history series that I have neglected the blogging for just about the whole year. I have a backlog of Duncan McLaren’s highly entertaining Evelyn Waugh tours to post. No Waugh aficionado should miss the entertainment and information in the Waugh tours. In order of reception:

Evelyn Waugh and Lord Berners

Evelyn in Appeldore

Evelyn and Alistair’s Grand Tour

Duncan’s book on Evelyn Waugh EVELYN! RHAPSODY FOR AND OBSESSIVE LOVE was published this year (available here and here). It is in the same eccentric style of his book on Enid Blyton LOOKING FOR ENID. Both are thoroughly enjoyable and a must for lovers Waugh and Blyton. I intend to write a review of the Waugh book after I have published Prison Hulk to Redemption. 




My intention to undertake an extensive revision of my first family history title has resulted in a complete replanning and rewriting of the series. I had wanted to add much new information about family members and put all the people and action into their proper social and historical context.

I found, however, that the undertaking was not so simple. I had badly underestimated the time this would take and the amount of social and historical information I would have to add to give an adequate picture of the period in which my ancestors acted. Providing that adequate picture has meant reorganizing the books (and the existing text) into periods different from those I had originally planned.

The first book with a new title – Prison Hulk to Redemption – will cover the period 1788-1901.   I have given up setting publication dates because I have continually found it necessary to put them back. A paperback edition as well as an ebook edition of Prison Hulk to Redemption will be released in the second half of 2015.

The reason the third book is almost finished is that my original intention was to write a childhood memoir that included some background information about my immediate family (parents and grandparents) and of my pioneering ancestors. After writing about the 1940s and early 1950s, I found that I had material for more than one book.  The project eventually grew into four books.

The Wilson Family History series will now cover these years:
Book 1: 1788-1901 – Prison Hulk to Redemption (nearly there)
Book 2: 1902-1945 – War Depression War pub. 2016 (40% written)
Book 3: 1946-1953 – Me ‘n’ Pete pub. 2016 (90% written)
Book 4: 1954-1958 – Billycarts & Two-Wheelers, 2017 (10% written)

I will keep updating my progress on the rewriting of the first book of the family history series.