As discussed in the previous post, the Highfields Saga had its beginnings within a short story about an event experienced by a young boy.
I believe this is the only reason that the first book has threaded throughout its length segments of life through the eyes of Jimmy; Arthur and Therese’s eight year old boy.
I have little doubt his vignettes will continue throughout the series, I enjoy writing them as much as others seem to enjoy reading them.
A couple of my beta and proof readers have commented that this is a nice touch, providing a comic relief as the story progresses.
In retrospect, I can see how I have placed these in such a way as to ease the tension off at the end of more emotional scenes, something done more in the movie industry perhaps, than in literature.
Jimmy has proven to be perfect as a vehicle for this, the writing being easy to execute, as he is of an age with myself.
One of my beta readers commented that she thought that Jimmy’s way of seeing things was perhaps getting too ‘out there’, leaving credulity behind in an attempt to gain an extra laugh or two.
However, after giving the matter much thought – as I do with all advice from my treasured beta readers – I have not made many changes to the Jimmy sections, and for a very specific reason.
As mentioned above, I am of an age with Jimmy, him being born in 1961. When I think back to my memories of my early school days, flights of fantasy were commonplace among the boys at school.
Reality was distorted by wild imaginings; what our Fathers told us was gospel, Mothers had no idea what they were talking about, being there to enforce the rules only (sorry to Mums everywhere) and real life happenings were mostly dealt with by heavy editing of the mind.
I have always been burdened/blessed with a very vivid imagination, as is Jimmy. It’s how I dealt with some of the things Jimmy goes through when I went through them myself.
Jimmy’s story is not an account of my life, though. His upbringing is lower middle class Australian, whereas my own was lower class English.
The Australian culture possesses some class hangups inherited from the British, but nowhere near the psychotic levels of their motherland.
Had I been born into anything other than the lower class, I may not even have noticed it.
In this country we are inclined to accept people by their current status, rather than the status they were born into.
Whilst the Australian upper classes try to exert an air of superiority down to this day, even back in 1969 it was done with enough clumsy desperation and heavy-handedness that few were ever really convinced.
No, Jimmy is not singled out at school because he is of a lower class. Indeed, the typical Australian school bully of the 60’s tended to be from the lower classes and their position was based more on physical size than anything else.
He is bullied because he is a dreamer and a weakling, bullies of the day were often guided by the venom of the teachers; if someone like Jimmy got reprimanded for daydreaming during class, the bully would sometimes take his cue from this.
Being bullied usually drove the victims into a kind of imagined retreat, a mental construct that we would erect for ourselves where no outsider could penetrate.
Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters highlighted something along these lines with The Wall, though that was based not just on his school days and definitely from an English perspective.
More often than not, these imagined places were based on a particular theme; this theme was typically generated by exposure to some event in real life, such as a movie watched in secret from a bedroom doorway, that being one of my own experiences.
Thus Jimmy goes through cowboys, pirates and, at school, aliens from outer space.
In the 1960’s, boys imaginations were being somewhat fed by comic books, movies and, to a lesser extent in rural areas, television.
Most of it, though, they had to dream up. There was nothing provided to the imagination on a silver plate, as it is today.
Game play was done outside, not sitting in front of a screen. Thus a young boy who found himself somewhere he would rather not be, such as at school, would have no trouble in dreaming up an imaginary world within which to hide himself.
There can be no doubt that the education system as it was then required only one thing to succeed; a good memory.
Everything was taught by rote, parroted back by the class and homework assignments consisted in the main of writing out information.
This was my experience from over ten years of schooling in two different countries and nine different schools.
Imagination, creativity and a sense of humor were things that got in the way of a good education in those days, and they were attacked with harsh words, humiliation and six of the best, or ‘The Cuts’, as it was known here.
In the cities and surrounding suburbs, people with those unwanted qualities were left to eke out a living as best they could when they left school at fifteen or less.
In the country, they left school and worked the family property, producing generations which included imaginative and creative farmers who gained the bush a reputation for ‘Bodgying things up with a bit of wire’, when in fact they kept isolated rural properties going by learning a raft of trades piecemeal as the knowledge was required.
Places like Highfields, with its engineering workshop, appeared all over the Australian rural landscape, providing innovation to their communities on a pure word of mouth basis.
Much of this Aussie inventiveness was bolstered by the growing immigrant population, bringing people like Ziggy into the country by ones and twos with every boatload.
As the series progresses, Jimmy will grow up in a place of comparitively limitless space, endless creativity and events that shape him into someone who sees perhaps more than most of his age.
Exposure to the workshops, Ziggy’s cars, racing billy carts, his Dad’s progression into an engineer and the struggle with the limitations of an education system geared to foster a polar opposite of himself, will all make him an interesting character to follow as he grows.