THE BEST ADVICE I EVER HEARD
by DVORA WAYSMAN
I was only 14 at the time, but despite seven decades that have passed, I can still see vividly, that wonderful woman, Esther , fifty years my senior, in her studio; with her inspiring words ringing in my ears: “Always follow your dream. Don’t let anyone else’s words deter you from it, and your life will be one of fulfillment.”
Esther Patterson was an artist, a member of the Royal Academy. Her oil paintings – portraits and still life – were very valuable , even more so today long after her passing. Scottish-born and a psychic, I met her in my birthplace, Melbourne, Australia. My father was a Chartered Accountant, and she was one of his clients. Even though I was a child, she invited me to visit her whenever I had free time, and she would talk to me while she painted. She was one of the few people I knew who didn’t talk down to me because of my age, or patronize me in any way. She was my heroine.
Her home, called “Inveresk”, was opposite Melbourne’s Albert Park Lake, and through the window, as she worked, I could watch small boats sailing there. To me, it was Paradise. It was a magic house, where there was always fascinating conversation, music and singing, artists and bohemian, creative people to talk to. Her sister, Betty Patterson, was also an artist, who mainly painted small children and babies, and had a trained, soprano voice. Esther’s husband was George Gill, the official Naval Historian. He was the epitome of a gentleman – soft-spoken, courteous and charming. To me, everything about them was enchanted.
The day she gave me the advice that I have heeded my whole life, I was sitting next to her, watching a bowl of daffodils take shape on her canvas – watching her at work never failed to enchant me. “What do you plan to do with your life? “ she asked me.
“I want to be a writer” I replied. She didn’t say “Take up a lucrative career, like a doctor, lawyer, architect -and write as a hobby” as many others before her had said to me. She laid down her paint brush and took my hand. “Follow your dream,” were her words, with no embellishment and it was then I decided seriously, for the first time, that I would do it, and never forget her words.
My family was quite poor as Australia was still recovering from the world-wide Depression, so there was no money to send me later to University. In any case, in those days there were no courses in Journalism, Creative Writing or anything to launch one’s career. In High School, I took sensible subjects that would help me earn a living, and shorthand, typing and book-keeping were part of the syllabus that would enable me to work as a secretary. But my first jobs were in a bookshop, and in the advertising department of Australia’s biggest magazine at the time: “The Women’s Weekly.” My first poems had been published in the children’s section of the newspaper when I was seven, and earned me my first income of two shillings and sixpence – a fortune to a little girl whose pocket money was a penny a week … every four weeks I had enough to buy an ice-cream. Whatever job I did had to have some connection to the world of writing, however tenuous. And then I started having short stories published … as Esther had advised me, I was following my star.
At 19, I decided I had to go to England. In school, the literature we had studied had been Dickens, Shakespeare, Shelley, Byron and Keats and I believed only there would it be possible to hone my skills. My parents were wonderfully supportive and said I could go for six months. In actual fact, I stayed for three, magical years – 1951 to 1954. In those days, traveling was by boat, and I sailed on the wonderful P. & O. liner “The Strathaird” for the sum of ten pounds sterling, in a ten-berth cabin in the bowels of the ship. We traveled through the Suez Canal, and the trip took six weeks – the most wonderful holiday of my life. I loved everything about it – the exotic ports of call where we docked for a day; the games of deck tennis; the ice-cream at 11 o’clock every morning; the parties for which I wrote skits and songs. The friends I made, some of whom are still alive, I am in touch with to this day.
I got work very quickly in London, in an Advertising Agency. There was no television then, but I wrote advertisements for newspapers, magazines and radio. I studied at night at the City of London College, and in my spare time I wrote scripts for the BBC. With a girl-friend, I Youth-Hostelled my way around Europe for five shillings a night when we had holidays – France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Holland and Belgium. And all the time, I was writing.!
My dream stayed with me my whole life and gave it lustre and magic. I married back in Melbourne, and Esther and George came to my wedding. Their gift was a beautiful painting of Esther’s – a bowl of golden chrysanthemums. It hung in my salon for more than fifty years. Just recently, I gave it to my elder son who had always admired it, as I’ve started disposing of some of my possessions , realizing that, at 86, my time is running out. But what a life it has been! I’ve published more than 5,000 articles, stories and poems. I’ve also published 14 books and am still writing. One of my novels is called “Esther” and is dedicated both to my daughter-in-law, also named Esther, and to Esther Patterson, who has been my inspiration for my whole life. Of all my books, although not the most successful (another one “The |Pomegranate Pendant” was made into a movie “The Golden Pomegranate”), it is still my favorite and I will forever thank Esther for the words she spoke to my 14-year-old self: “Follow your dream!”
Happy writing! You can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dvora Waysman 5 /; 5 Karmon Street, Jerusalem, 9630807 Israel