Even a child knows……

The other day I found an idyllic picnic spot and a commemorative plaque to Dr Neil Cherry at Ouruhia Domain. https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/one-sandwich-short-of-a-picnic/

Kaputone Water

Kaputone Water

Whilst contemplating my surroundings and my discoveries, I remembered some other tranquil, picnic places I have known; in particular, ones from my childhood. Almost always, we sat by the water, the wimpling water, because, there, one might find the teeniest respite from  the heat and humidity of the tropics.

By the wimpling water

By the wimpling water

Picnic by Sea Water

Picnic by Sea Water

My memories of that time are rich and full. I swam and played and read  to my heart’s content. On a macro-mini level, my childhood was idyllic; yes, it was – idyllic.

But, in my immediate environment, and in the larger world, there were tensions of which I was acutely aware, although I was so very young. For one, there was racism, (and social and economic inequality).  There were people who lived at the lines (at the bottom of the hill), and there were people who lived at the top of the hill. There were children who could go to my school and children who couldn’t. And some were allowed at the club and others weren’t. Colour and colonialism ruled how our society lived. I knew this, even as a child; and I knew it wasn’t right and it wasn’t just.

But, more sinister, and more unmanageable and unfathomable to a child, were the less than peaceful events happening in the Pacific. At the end of the Second World War, the administrators and colonial rulers of much of the Pacific; namely the US, Britain and France, turned regions of their territories  into what may have been  the largest nuclear testing laboratory in the world. For their former enemies, there were reconstruction and development initiatives; for their faithful friends and allies in the Pacific; for the communities who sacrificed their land and lives for the war effort, there were, yipdee doo, nuclear testing programmes.

I don’t know ,or understand, all the details of the nuclear testing, but there is a plethora of information on the internet; much of it confusing to a non-scientist like me. What I do know is that in November 1962, when I was six years old and a bit,  I saw the aurora created by this

Kingfish 1 November 1962 Johnston Atoll 410 kilotons Operation Fishbowl, high altitude nuclear explosion, 97 km altitude, Thor missile with W-50 warhead, dramatic aurora-like effects, extensive ionosphere disruption, radio communication over central Pacific disrupted for over three hours

It was extraordinary, eerie, fiery and awful, and, as I don’t think we really knew for sure what was causing the transformation of the sky, it created a feeling of apocalyptic doom. More especially because this probable nuclear explosion came so soon after the drama of the Cuban missile crisis, when we worried, for days, that nuclear war was about to engulf the world. Young as I was, I remember the fear of potential nuclear warfare. Young as I was, I knew that what I saw in November 1962 was as wrong as it was awful. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Dominic

The American and British testing came to an end not long after, but that was not the end of the Pacific’s nuclear battering, for the  French then  took over the nuclear testing baton in the Pacific. Between 1966 and 1996, the French conducted 181 nuclear explosions, 45 of them in the atmosphere, the rest underground. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moruroa

In all these nuclear testing exercises and experiments, there were accidents and disasters and fallout on innocent, peaceful Pacific Peoples. There was long lasting harm done to previously pristine environments…and for what reason… hubris, power, to make a safer world, because they could, so they did? I didn’t understand why as a child. I was implacably angry about it as a teenager and young adult, and, now, I am simply sad. Particularly sad because the testing has created a hardness in my heart; a small stony part of me that  struggles  to forgive a lengthy, nuclear invasion/abuse of my backyard.

Dr Neil Cherry tried  to help veterans/victims of radioactive fallout receive compensation. The struggle for recompense and recognition continue, as does the  impact of that nuclear testing  on the lives of ordinary citizens.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/03/french-nuclear-tests-polynesia-declassified

It’s also more than a little ironic that this whole nuclear scenario in the Pacific was only  possible because  our  most  famous, New Zealand scientist, Lord Rutherford of Nelson, discovered how to split the atom. http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/manchester/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8282000/8282223.stm

To finish on a positive note, here are a couple of photos of my happy days in the bosom of my precious nuclear family; NUCLEAR; what a word to use for a family. 🙂

© silkannthreades

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77 thoughts on “Even a child knows……

  1. melodylowes

    Amazing what a child does know, of the unspoken grown-up world. Thank you for sharing your personal perspective, as nuclear testing sites were so far removed from my own backyard, I have never given them much thought. How sad to be so ignorant of the thoughts and feelings of others so far away…

    Reply
  2. Virginia Duran

    Sometimes is funny how much as children we are able to remember. I was aware of many things being unfair or social discrimination when being a kid and this didn’t feel right. Fortunately we grow old and we see progress or even are able to change some things by ourselves.
    This post felt like reading a short novel. As a European I feel very curious about your stories. Since I wasn’t even born and I have never been so far from home this is far beyond from what I was thaught at school. Thanks for sharing your memories and history in general. The pictures are amazing pieces by the way, loved the picnic one, made me smile!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I am glad you like the pictures (and story). I do enjoy looking at them and thinking about them. I am also glad you mention that we grow up and see progress and often make a contribution to that progress. That is the perspective/wisdom/reassurance that time and younger generations bring to historical events.

      Reply
  3. beautycalyptique

    “the word is: nu-cu-lar” h.j. simpson

    wow. it really was like reading a (very short) novel, just like TG suggests. heavy with that lighthearted childhood aura that makes the wrongs of the world so much more bitter.

    so we all grew up in that fear I suppose – it just had different reasons, but the fear was all the same. I remember that every night – every night – I went to bed in Moscow as a child, I was anxious so wake up to a war. but it wasn’t better during the day: dad, mum, and me would have ended in different bomb shelters (assigned by place of work; neighbourhood; school).
    and I remember, after chernobyl (we’ve been checking all food with a geiger counter) I really thought that the world would turn to alternatives.
    silly kid…

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you for your compliments. Thankfully my fears were mostly in the background and my life was generally happy and carefree. But the nu cu lar (!) threat was always around. And we didn’t have any bomb shelters in our country; not that they would have been any use 🙂 You had a truly anxious time and especially when you had to check your food. Chernobyl was a horrible disaster. Fukushima too. I guess there are always fears and dangers of one sort or another; the trick is to take them in our stride and live life as well and as beautifully as we can. Would you agree?

      Reply
      1. beautycalyptique

        I do agree. I just wonder if those who are pushing the nu cu lar things ahead have a spare planet to escape. The mankind is always wise in hindsight. Worrying…

        Reply
        1. beautycalyptique

          why – how? – are you such an optimist???? 😀

          I will read this piece after breakfast. otherwise I might not be able to eat a bite (I get really upset by stupidity)

        2. beautycalyptique

          totally.made me think of the old saying “god is like a child with a magnifying glass, burning ants”. only applied to those in power. sad and horrifying.

        3. Gallivanta Post author

          Yes! I was absolutely astonished to learn today that there is a film about the time period I remember, but set in London. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginger_%26_Rosa Not sure I want to see it but it’s interesting that I am not the only one reflecting on those nuclear doomsday times. Has it taken us all these years to fully process the times we lived through?

        4. beautycalyptique

          I think that it’s just been a bit more complicated to share a story back then. it’s today we’re able to share or to read such things from across the globe via one click. the culture, the mindset, was all different, too. and the world wasn’t as connected.

        5. beautycalyptique

          yes! also the expectations and the education and the understanding of their own rights have grown for an average citizen. the labels don’t work anymore – everybody is an activist these days (for the better or the worse)

        6. Gallivanta Post author

          Interesting; I tend to think I am not an activist anymore because I am not out on the streets demonstrating but ,if you take into account the activists on the internet then the numbers of activists world wide must be enormous.

        7. beautycalyptique

          that’s what I’m saying. it’s also not regarded as “a weirdo/hippie/(insert derogative term of choice) thing to do” anymore, it’s gotten normal. that’s not bad.

  4. cindy knoke

    This post gave me goosebumps! Such a tense dialectic between your idilyc childhood picnic days, and the nuclear tests going on in the pacific. Well done~

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      They were extraordinary times really. I am glad the nuclear testing frenzy is over. However the moral outrage that the former testing powers express over those that still try to test, or threaten to test, is interesting to observe. Political memories are short! But, thankfully, with their current political stance, we do have a better chance of a world free of nuclear weapons….I hope 🙂

      Reply
  5. teamgloria

    you SO have a novel in you.

    we are given our stories and our histories so we can record them for posterity.

    do tell – are you Writing one?

    *curiouslookviatheinterweb*

    because we would definitely buy it.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Too kind *tg*, too kind. I fear my head and pen lack the necessary discipline. But one never knows. I do surprise myself sometimes with what I manage to do.

      Reply
      1. teamgloria

        or a short story – just to start……*lookshopefullyatscreen*

        your experience is worth sharing – and so few people ever get to see your part of the world…(apart from those who watched the Hobbit, of course)

        Reply
  6. Mrs. P

    I hadn’t realized that there had been so much testing in the Pacific and for such a long period of time. I would be curious to know if the cancer rates were higher there comparative to other parts of the world.

    Love the photos and your beautiful curly locks!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Aren’t the curly locks so cute? I love them. I have one of them tucked away somewhere in a box. There is disagreement about whether the cancer rates are higher in the Pacific. Some researchers have evidence of higher cancer rates but this evidence is disputed by the authorities who are being asked to provide compensation.

      Reply
  7. Sheryl @ Flowery Prose

    Lovely photographs…I was just talking with my hubby and my brother on the weekend about how digitizing everything and phone photography will perhaps change personal histories…there is an impermanence to digital media and we won’t have printed photos to look at and recall events.

    Your writing about nuclear testing is another reminder of a history that, as you said, should be shared.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      It is going to be strange not to have hard copies of family history readily to hand, in the future. Well, strange to those of us who have known the tactile remnants of family photos, letters, diaries, documents etc. Technology is also a boon for family history because through it, our history and our times become much easier to record and share and investigate. Perhaps a double edged sword??

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      The photos are gorgeous aren’t they? I especially love looking at my cute blonde curls (now long gone 🙂 ) I think I was born old and very aware. One of my first teachers used to ask my mother ” If she was sure that I hadn’t been born before”!!! I was a serious little thing, apparently. But mostly I remember that life was fun and lovely 🙂

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you. Do families still have home-made sandwich picnics and wrap their drink bottles in newspaper to keep them cold-ish? Or keep the drink cold in the coolness of river water? It was tremendous fun.

      Reply
    2. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you. Do families still have home-made sandwich picnics and wrap their drink bottles in newspaper to keep them cold-ish? Or keep the drink cold in the coolness of river water? It was tremendous fun.

      Reply
  8. Clanmother

    The quote that I have used as my life motto comes from Søren Kierkegaard “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Children perceive evil clearly, although they cannot name it as such. All they know is something is dreadfully wrong. As I grow older, I remember back to those times and recognize if for what it is. Bad things are done in the name of good. And we must remember and speak for those who no longer have a voice. As Elie Wiesel once wrote: “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I have certainly added a lot to my understanding by looking backwards on this time period. But living now, living forwards and bearing witness are, as you and Elie so wisely say, the best ways to make all our lives stronger and better.

      Reply
  9. lagottocattleya

    Important post. I remember Cuba too, and how frightening everything was. Nobody could explain it to me. What happened in your part of the world I knew a bit about but not the full extent of it. Mankind, I know, will never learn…

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I think we learn a little bit as we go along but perhaps we are not very fast learners. 🙂 I wonder if no one could explain the missile crisis to us, the children, because it was really inexplicable in sensible, logical, childish terms.

      Reply
  10. Forest So Green

    I am so glad that you wrote this post. It is such an important reminder of how closely all people on this planet are connected to each other and that the actions of some definitely affect all the others.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you 🙂 With all the new research we have about the environment, ocean currents, climate change etc, we know now, more than ever, how easy it is for the actions of one country to affect another. We all need to be responsible citizens 🙂

      Reply
  11. tiny lessons blog

    A very strong post, these things are so important to say. It is truly sad what happened…unchecked power. I remember thinking about these tests and the damage they could do – and did. Ps. I loved the old photos!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Old photos are so lovely, aren’t they? I find it hard to understand the nuclear testing frenzy/mania of those years. I suppose it made sense to certain leaders of that time (the same sort of sense that legitimised an invasion of Iraq to destroy the menace of WMDs?). However, the whole nuclear testing programme seems to me to be founded on an idea that certain people and environments are less worthy and therefore expendable in the interests of the greater good. Ironic; because in 1946, when the testing began, those same leaders were involved in setting up the UN which was based on the idea of equality and worth and basic human rights for each and everyone of us 🙂 Isn’t the world a funny, old place?

      Reply
  12. Sheryl

    This is such a thought provoking post. I have friends from several of the Pacific entities and knew a little about this. Your perspectives help be understand it a little better.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I don’t know as much as I should really but I don’t want the issue to be forgotten. At that time the nuclear threat was very real; these days, Governments’ biggest fears seem to relate to cyberspace . But the attitude that allowed Governments to override people’s rights back then, can easily prevail vis-a-vis the latest trend in perceived threats.

      Reply
  13. Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    nice post, and i am so sorry that your childhood was tainted with that sense of foreboding which lingers even today. i ponder how drone use affects those who are subject to surprise attacks in today’s times, and my heart grows heavy with compassion and remorse.

    thank you for this post.

    Reply
      1. Playamart - Zeebra Designs

        yes, we do; many times i say that i wish we could turn back the hands of time to more idyllic times, but your post reminds me to go much farther back than i’d imagined. i’m so sorry that you grew up with those foreboding times; i was lucky and was buffered – though i realize that a life like that did not prepare me well to deal with the wolves out there in the mean ole world.

        thank you for sharing your memories; perhaps it will help us all realize that others might suffer because of our actions.

        yes, we need more compassion, artistic release and the belief in magic!

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          I think you deal very well with the wolves if your Red Flag post is anything to go by. But, all things considered, there are more lovely, compassionate people in the world than wolves.

        2. Playamart - Zeebra Designs

          we will hope the good outnumber the bad! thanks!

          there are several really bad wolves down here who present themselves as true sheep, and witnessing their unprofessional and most-likely illegal behavior keeps nudging me to do something to help my friends and those who have yet to take the bait. i struggle with how/what to do, as i am an outsider – i wish i could step into a phone booth and put on my superwoman garb. one day these stories will be told, but for now they’re pending litigation.

          one told me that he’d just about given up on mankind, but my willingness to help/get involved/go to bat for them has restored his belief in good over bad…

          i hope that the scales are soon balanced.

        3. Gallivanta Post author

          How empowering for you to know that you make a difference. But it must be difficult to know how far to go and how greatly to be involved, as a foreigner. Then there is also your artwork which is important to your own well being and requires large amounts of energy and attention.

        4. Playamart - Zeebra Designs

          getting involved was a no brainer for me, as no one else was helping, and this couple was back in the usa and looking for an attorney who could adisse them of their rights.

          i’m glad that i have lots of outlets for the energy!

  14. YellowCable

    You have very good memory. I love to old photos of yours. Those are such lovely memories. The nuclear story is a bit scary. It seems like we (human) played with fire without knowing its unknown danger. I hope there is no more testing. I am always concern about radiation from X-ray at the hospital or at the dentist office. I have never like it or feel good about.

    By the way, the radio wave over the air is also a form of radiation which should be avoided in high power area (near the antennas or high tension power lines) as well.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      We haven’t had any testing in our region since 1996 but, you are right, there are other forms of radiation that we need to consider and understand. I was so happy when the radiologist told me that I no longer need to have yearly mammograms. Yet I am grateful that mammograms are available when needed :). Pleased you like the old photos. They are faded but still beautiful.

      Reply
  15. ordinarygood

    I certainly remember the Cuban missile crisis and being too frightened to go to sleep at night and knowing that my Dad could not prevent disaster, no matter how reassuring he was. Later in time I remember we had a sign “banning the bomb” that we had in a window in the front of the house.
    Now I feel concerned about Fukishima and wonder if things are being covered up regarding leakage and radiation emissions.
    I so proud of our Nuclear Free stand and hope that always remains.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I am glad we share that long ago fear. I think I continued to sleep well but I also remember the incredible relief when the crisis was over. In my post I didn’t include New Zealand’s case against the French at the International Court of Justice; that was a great moment too. I hope our Nuclear Free stance continues too. I wrote this post partly because I think we must not forget those earlier anxious times and the dreadfulness of nuclear testing and potential nuclear conflict and what was happening in our own backyard.

      Reply

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