When I was eight, as a family, we emigrated to Australia as “£10 Poms”, based on my father being a State Registered Nurse. For my parents, who had lived through WW2, father as an army medical orderly and mother in a munition’s factory, the idea of a new life was enticing. As children we had no idea of what to expect, apart from being told that it meant being able to play outside a great deal, as there would be lots of sunshine.
So, we sold up in the UK, packed everything from one life and headed off on the train to London to catch the boat train to Southampton. Now living a few miles from Southampton, we often pass the railway gate into the port where we caught the P&O ship Oriana for the five and a half week ocean voyage to Australia, via the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, Colombo, then Perth, where we disembarked for the extensive train ride to Adelaide, to pick up another boat that took us to Sydney, and another train journey to Brisbane. Here we were billeted in a transit camp, a holding place from which a job was sought, followed by house purchase, meaning that we ended up living in a suburb called Zillmere, in Beams Road, which was an area that has since been extensively remodelled.
Weekends and holidays offered extended opportunities to walk to the local creek, with our fishing tackle, a mix of a rod and line together with a number of coke bottle lines. This was a local affectation, with the line wound around the coke bottle, twirled around the head and the weight taking the line out into the creek. Catfish and eels were regular catches. A small picnic allowed us to stay out a bit longer than perhaps we should have in the days before easy contact through children having their own phones. Suffice to say that none of us wore a watch either. I do remember a very angry, or worried, mother hitting me after I arrive home late.
Best friend John’s dad had a chicken farm along the road. The alternative to fishing was snake hunting, with the family Jack Russell and a forked stick, sitting in the mulberry tree picking and eating mulberries, with inevitable stained clothes, or climbing the banana trees to cut a bunch of bananas.
It did become the idyllic place to grow up, but it was to change again, with parents deciding that we were returning to the UK, but with an extended timescale, not telling us of the plans. Once the house was sold, we moved to the coast, to Shorncliffe, a very short walk from the pier and the shark-fenced beach. The pier meant much more fishing, often into the evening, with frequent hauls meaning that we were well fed on fish for days. Sharks of different types were also often hooked, resulting in a bit of a tussle. Shorncliffe School changed the Aussie Rules to Rugby League, and swimming at the Sandgate swimming pool.
Neither school has left a detailed imprint on my learning, apart from the sport and the copperplate writing done at Boondall with old-fashioned nib pens.
Memories are of being outdoors, exciting my life-long interest in nature in all it’s forms, with a particular interest in insect life which led to an unrequited wish to become an entomologist. Seeing a manta ray leap from the water while fishing on a short pier beside the fishermen’s cooperative on Nundah Creek will stay forever, as will the memory of cockroach races along Shorncliffe Pier.
All part of life’s rich developmental experiences...developing resilience that would be useful later in life.
As a result, I learned, at a young age, how to explore, to be safe and self-reliant, but also to be fully aware of my surroundings, orientated and secure, attributes that I learned to use more especially during my later teens.