Remembering Liam Davison

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My great friend Liam Davison (right) would have been 60 today. That’s us, in Vietnam I think.

I don’t want to talk about the senseless loss of life, that took him and his wife Francesca that was MH17, and one day I’ll be ready to write in a lot more detail about Liam and his writing, and what they both meant to me.  Liam was an extraordinary person and writer.

Today, I’m just remembering the friend I met at teacher’s college in 1975, who I taught with, wrote with,  travelled, socialised, rode and and talked with for nearly forty years.

Recently, Gavin Duffy, the graphics editor of Peninsula Writing, shared some photos he’d re-discovered of Gavin, Liam and myself on the radio set of Radio Port Phillip where we did a weekly radio show on local writing for a while, and also trying to sell our little magazine at a publisher’s event in the mid 1980s.  They were fun times, excited about writing and where it all might lead. I love our Peninsula Writing wind-cheaters and that sense that we were doing something fun and important.

I miss him pretty much every day.

Today, I’ll be celebrating his 60th with family and friends

Below: Promoting local writing on Radio Port Phillip. From left: Liam, Debbie Batt, me.

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Below: On the Small Publishers stand at a book fair. From left: Liam, unknown, me.

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Below: Liam, Gavin Duffy and unknown, Book Fair.

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Peninsula Writing 1983-1985

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Issue #1 – 1983. $3.75

Doing some Autumn cleaning over the holidays I found lots of photos that I’d not originally considered good enough to make it into a photo album, but I wanted to keep.

Among them were some photos of Liam Davison and Gavin Duffy printing Peninsula Writing in the 1980s.

Peninsula Writing was a quartely local literary magazine that Liam, Gavin and I founded in 1983 to promote and foster creative writing on the Mornington Peninsula. Liam edited the prose, Gavin created the artwork, graphics and design, including five terrific coves and I edited the poetry. We all typed, stapled and folded. The little magazine featured poetry, prose and reviews and lasted five issues.

In some ways it was the very worst time to try to publish a magazine. No desktop publishing or laser printers, or internet, we typed the whole thing out by hand, made offset masters and printed it ourselves on an offset machine borrowed from the local church. Very hands on! We struggled with all the usual stuff; distribution, advertising, sponsorship and getting the damn type black enough! If only we’d waited a few short years …

I was a bit surprised that nothing much exists about this short-lived little magazine now. Not one image on Google Search, and no article anywhere I can find. It wasn’t ground-breaking historical stuff, but it was part of a little local movement and I think it deserves a little better than nothing.

So, I intend putting together a series of blog posts, one on each issue, with some scans, lists of contributors etc., just to put the record out there. For I feel it was something worthwhile.

Below: a break in the printing. Liam Davison, Gavin Duffy and Jackie Davison (Liam’s mum, who had access to the church offset printer)

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Below: Liam working the offset printer. We always struggled to get the print black enough.

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Below: Me with the first copy of ‘Peninsula Writing’

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Birdcall

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As I blogged about earlier, I joined a good sized audience this week at 45 Downstairs to hear some short fiction loosely focused on the idea of ‘love and loss’, short story readings from Carrie Tiffany, Arnold Zable and Toni Jordan, which were all interesting and 45 Downstairs is a great place to hear writing.

However, I was really there to hear Liam Davison’s work read. And I was so pleased with the choice, a story called Birdcall which was featured in the Best Australian Short Stories 2013, (Blackinc)

It’s a beautiful story, classically about love and loss, but imbued for all of there with the heard-rending sadness at the loss of the author.  It’s a beautiful story, about a father and son, about putting away the past, about connections and disconnections. The central image of the birdsong, and the bird-caller is wonderfully balanced and subtle and restrained, like his best writing so often was.

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It was also beautifully read by actor Paul English (above). It’s not an easy story to read, with its birdsong (see the opening below) built into the story. Easy to get wrong. And Liam’s voice is also hard to read sometimes, the tone matters, and English got it just right.

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It was very moving to hear Liam’s words out loud again, with lots of his family and friends in the audience too. And I thought I held it together pretty well; I really wanted to hear the story and listen to it, listen to it as a beautifully written piece of fiction and not get all mixed up with thinking about everything else around it.

And I mostly did that, but when we got to the passage below I couldn’t help but think of all the writing that we now won’t get from Liam and that hurts. And maybe I lost it a little then.

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Remembering Liam and Frankie Davison

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I was shattered at the news last Friday of the death of our closest friends, Liam and Frankie Davison in the Malaysian Airlines disaster in the Ukraine. He was a fine novelist and short story writer, and a wonderful human being. We were friends for over forty years, since Teacher’s College. He was my mentor, my listening post, my fellow editor at Peninsula Writing, cycling friend, just friend. At some time, when I’m a bit stronger, I intend putting up something more substantial online to honour his writing and try to bring together various pieces of writing. Meanwhile, you can read an obituary by Nat O’Neill HERE, read some of Liam’s writing at his Gillhaney blog HERE or read his most recent piece in The Griffith Review HERE.

There was also a piece about Liam’s writing in the Sydney Morning Herald by Gregory Day HERE.

Some details about the memorial service on Sunday are below:

Sam and Milly, along with their extended family, invite friends to gather at Toorak College on the upper playing field overlooking Port Phillip Bay on Sunday 27 July 2014 at 2:30pm, to pay tribute and share our love for Liam and Frankie.

Liam and Frankie’s family’s have been extremely touched by the love and support received over the past week. In 2011 Frankie and Liam visited The Annapurna Self-Sustaining Orphan Home in Pokhara, Nepal, where they were both touched by the incredible work being done there. These efforts rely largely on donations, in which the Davisons were instrumental over the last few years.

A trust has been set up for the Orphan Home in Liam and Frankie’s memory. Rather than flowers, we ask that those wishing to continue their support to the Davison family make donations to this fund.

With much love and thanks.

Annapurna Self-Sustaining Orphan Home, Pokhara, Nepal

Account Name: Amelia Davison Annapurna Orphanage

BSB: 06 3550

Account Number: 1036 2702

 

Mt Martha Lands and People

Anyone who’s read this blog the time will know how much I enjoy and appreciate local history. And, there’s something really satisfying about a well written natural local history. I like the passion that goes into them. I like the appreciation of the local and the specific. I like that, in a time of globalisation, there’s still space for the really personal and regional.

One of my favourite books last year was local history of the Wimmera region and I must admit I thought I’d read everything about my own area, the Mornington Peninsula.

So delighted to find out about a new book I hadn’t seen before. ‘Mt Martha Lands and People’ by Winty Calder. Apart from the ghastly cover, which is probably designed for the local tourist market, it’s a beautifully detailed and comprehensive natural local history.

Sections include the natural environment, the first people, the meetings and clashes of cultures, the early results in coastal development, Federation to World War I, suburbanisation between the wars, and World War II itself and its effect on this area (many marines were stationed here for rest and recreation). Finally, it also charts the changes from role to suburban and importance of keeping some of the open spaces. I never say never for a surprise to find it in the local newsagent. It’s a labour of love, I like that too.

Funnily enough, I couldn’t find one image of the books cover on the Internet, so I scanned one in. It seems not everything, especially the local, is on the web yet.

Oh, also dictated this post aloud using Dragon Express software on my new blue microphone. I’m keen to use a lot more audio this year if I can.

Thirteen Jesuses

I received my copy this week of Garth Madsen’s latest collection, Thirteen Jesuses, published by Picaro Press.  Garth is the self-appointed poet laureate of Frankston and this collection is a series of 55 short prose poems, almost all opening with the lines, ‘I have learned…’ and full of Madsen’s typical mix of humor, angst, social commentary and personal philosophy. It’s a great little collection.  I’ll blog the cover when I get access to a scanner; meanwhile, here’s a picture I took of Garth earlier this year when he spoke at the Cube 37 Symposium in Frankston which I blogged about back THEN.