"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way (Leo Tolstoy 1878)
Tolstoy's Impact
Tolstoy is a philosopher/narrator within his novel Anna Karenina.  He invites the reader to philosophize about happiness, as they read the doings, the thoughts and the feelings of his characters. The Oblonsky family's happiness  is destroyed by adultery and financial problems; the Kareninas' reputation is ruined by scandal; and even Levin’s happy marriage suffers from jealousy and ongoing arguments. “Love at first sight” is still popular in romance novels of our own time, as it was in Tolstoy's time.  Vronsky and Anna are immediately attracted one to the other. However, the narrator, as well as utilising traditional symptoms—red lips and shining eyes—adds a mystical and philosophical dimension to the lovers' first meeting. 

A Happy Childhood ... by the beach

Memories of Freedom and Security
As a kid, I lived in a treasured place and time. It was the forties and fifties in Brighton-le-Sands. Life was simpler then. Kids could—and did—play outside all day. The crime rate was lower, we were happy with simple things, and only came home when the street lights went on. The streets were much safer places and were the venue for many games. Back then, we drank water from the tap or from a hose, not from bottles;  nobody knew about the dangers of lead poisoning, or asbestos, let alone worrying about fluoride. We ate white bread, biscuits, cheese, real butter and bacon, untrimmed beef or greasy lamb chops, and we drank whole cream milk without any health issue qualms. Those were the days when we knew and trusted all of our neighbors, when we either walked or rode our one family bicycle everywhere we went. [caption id="attachment_12869" align="alignright" width="730"]historic-photo-of-brighton-school Historic Photo of Brighton-le-Sands School[/caption]

Lambs in Spring

[caption id="attachment_12063" align="aligncenter" width="433"]donny-anne-billy Donny Me Billy[/caption] The humid scorching heat of the sub-tropical climate engulfed us; the sun’s rays tore at our skin with ruthless intensity and sent us kids scurrying towards water, even if it was only to the hose in the back or front yard. Sometimes Mum would pile us into the jeep and head for the primitive baths, set in the river bank at South Grafton, a good three miles from our place. Don‘t go near the river! was a constant ringing in our ears back home. You’ll drown and no-one will hear your cries! There are bull-routs in the reeds at the water’s edge! The Clarence River was just below our backyard Water, cool and exhilarating in summer, warm and nurturing in winter.  All of us five kids learnt to swim at an early age. We splashed around in the creek on Dad’s bush paddock, where we dipped in amongst the gum trees with their roots spreading out from the banks to give us a foot-hold as we jumped in, scattering the frogs and snakes, then felt the clay bed squelchy beneath our feet.

  I: Firstly:  All things are connected, but distinctions need to be made... This may seem academic—and it is—but sometimes a subtle distinction makes all the difference in practice: The writer is not the narrator of a text of fiction, and vice versa. It is easy to forget this fact, especially when you change from Reader (studying books at uni or in a book club) to Writer. This was driven home to me once, long ago, when an Author gave a talk and had the listeners eating out of her hand (sorry for the cliché but this is exposition), laughing our butts off, (another one!) but when  I read the book, it was disappointingly dull.  I decided, then and there,  that she was more of a Speaker than a Writer. I learnt afterwards that she had, indeed, joined the International Speakers' Circuit. Oh well, good luck to her! I thought... But I, for some unknown reason,  wanted to learn how to write well.