Wednesday 23 September 2009

Thoughts on Earlier Days

My thoughts of late have been towards the plight of the migrant.  Leaving England as a child and migrating to South Africa, was far different to leaving South Africa and migrating to Australia as an adult and parent.  Although many people live in places where climate and weather patterns are extreme and where  creatures and 'odd' traditions are commonplace, it is nonetheless overwhelming for some migrants, who have lived "protected" lives away from such things. To leave one's family and move to a strange land is traumatic enough. To face additional conditions which are shocking and dangerous can sometimes lend a migrant to utter despair

While in South Africa, if there was a snake around our homestead,  I would be the first to discover the snake. It was a known and accepted fact in our family. Rinkhals, cobras, mambas, puff adders and boomslangs. I've 'met' them all! And each time, mam would calm me down after the encounter, even though she herself was just as afraid.

In the dry creeks of the farms we lived on, we also encountered legavaans - similar to the monitor lizard, that become quite angered for no reason, it seemed.

One swish of their tail would put those of a slighter build on their back. Deadly scorpions would sometimes leave the rocks of the dry creek beds and venture into the brick crevices of the old farmhouses. My brothers would catch them and tease them. I still shudder thinking of the way their tails would curl over and twitch, ready to strike!  I am still wary of opening a box of matches which may be hanging around the house, because of what may be inside.

I can't help but wonder in awe at the enduring spirit of the earlier migrants, who ventured on - despite many hardships which our modern day systems could now overcome. In the Australian outback there are numerous graves, belonging to unfortunate folk who were bitten by some strange creeping or slithering creature, unable to either reach hospital care on time or receive efficient care or antidotes. There are those graves hosting folk whose constitution just couldn't cope with extreme climatic conditions either. Especially the finer ladies and children.  (A recent movie I enjoyed was "Jessica" - based on a novel by Bryce Courtenay - depicting the difficult life of early Australians).

And those who did survive have now become the great-grandmothers of our relatively young nation. Their letters and memoirs are recorded in our history books. I wonder if it ever crossed their minds that they would be instrumental in forming the grand nation we have today.


Josephine Tale Peddler said...

Helen, you're not selling South Africa to me love! No way could I live there. As a child I did live in Papua New Guinea and can still remember the pythons and bird eating spiders. Not to mention the headhunters still in the jungle. If you ever see a book called Tour to Hell by David Levell pick it up. It's a non fiction book about early settlers in Australia and written by my Scribe :) He really bought what the bush and that experience was to life in my totally unbiased opinion. Hope all is well. xx

Tess Kincaid said...

I've always thought we Yanks to be a melting pot of migrants, but there is something to be said for the tough and scrappy Australian migrants and all they had to endure. Great post.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Great post... I am dealing with 'migrating' to England probably in 2010. Moving there permanently is intimidating for me even though there are not snakes :) It is the great unknown- not being surrounded by what is familiar to you...


 Table talk amongst our children is and always has been, -  a rabbit warren . We start off in one hole and end up in another -  quick smart....