Tag Archives: Pacific

The gifts of a lifetime

In my previous post I mentioned Barbara, giver of the Happiness Kit.

Long before the Happiness Kit came into my household, Barbara (and her family ) gave us other gifts: the gift of thoughtful words, like these,

Barbara's Words, School Magazine 1944

Barbara’s  student words about our duty and responsibility to establish a saner world for our children: School Magazine 1944

and the gift of Angela, otherwise known as my sister-in-law. This coming week it will be Angela’s birthday. This post is my birthday  gift to Angela. ~

I write a lot about reading; reading books, in particular.

This is where my official reading life began;  Lautoka European School,

My brother; the advance party on the reading path.

My brother, first row, 4th from the left; the advance reading party; my mentor at L.E.S.

a small school, in a small colonial town, on a dot of an island, in the vast Pacific Ocean.  My reading ‘prowess’ was acquired, staid word upon staid word, with the assistance of the utterly dull, ‘what-have-these-people-got-to-do-with-my-life’  Janet and John readers, and a young teacher who, whilst relatively benign most of the time, once had the audacity to strap some of us on the back of our legs for failing to recognise the word of the day on the blackboard ~ “BARK”.  I was offended, and still am to this day! WOOF! 😀

Despite this unfortunate hiccup in my early reading days, my enthusiasm for reading did not falter. I attribute that enthusiasm to the pre-reading skills that were nurtured at home,

Playing with Mother aka reading readiness

Gallivanta playing with Mother aka reading readiness

and at  my mother’s kindergarten, through play and story-time. I don’t remember being read to, but I do remember the books that were read and that I later learned to read by myself. Many of those books remain on my bookshelves.  Here’s a sample:

As I was learning to understand, and love, the written word in Lautoka, about 200kms to  the East, another young girl was already well on the road to reading her way through the world of books.

In May, this year, that young girl, now all grown up as Angela Namoi, was awarded the  Pixie O’Harris Award for Distinguished and Dedicated Service to the Development and Reputation of Australian Children’s Books at the  Australian Book Industry Awards.  It was a fitting honour for Angela’s hard work and enormous contribution to children’s literature.  But more than that, it seems to me, the award acknowledges how from the smallest of beginnings, a few, simple written words, be they Janet and John or Pearl Pinkie and Sea Greenie, come riches far greater than any we can possibly  imagine when, in that magical nanosecond, we first decipher those squiggles on the page before us.

Angela puts it like this in these excerpts from her acceptance speech for the Pixie O’Harris award.

This is a huge honour and something I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams.

Pearl Pinkie and Sea Greenie by Pixie O’Harris was a favourite children’s book of mine – who’d have thought that I would one day win an award bearing her name.

There are people to thank!……….

My parents are Australian, but I was born and raised in Fiji. My father was a missionary so we had very little money. Although our clothes might have been sewn from old curtains, it’s thanks to my mother’s excellent sense of priorities that our house was always full of books.

Growing up on a small island meant we were exposed to influences from absolutely everywhere. We read books from all over the world and I was always fascinated by the variations in language, and how connected that was to geography.

This has fed my passion for diversity of voice, so I have greatly enjoyed working to ensure the Australian voice is heard LOUD AND CLEAR in the wider world!

My early experiences confirmed the importance of books in a child’s life. The stats are there for everyone to see – broadly, a child who has books in their home is a child who will do better in life. I believe this passionately.

 

To that I would add: Congratulations and Happy Birthday Angela. You are much-loved.

Related but separate: two examples of Australian Children’s Literature

Possum Magic by Mem Fox

and  The Arrival by Shaun Tan

There are many more. Next time you read a children’s book, take a quick look and check its country of origin. You may find you are in the good company of an Australian. 😉

© silkannthreades

 

 

 

Seeing the New and the Old

The blogcation saga continues…..

From  childhood days to the present……..where my friend and I  re-visit  old connections, in new contexts, at the Pacific Chapel, in the Transitional  Cardboard Cathedral,

Pacific Chapel, Cardboard Cathedral.

Pacific Chapel, Cardboard Cathedral.

and consider how our lives have changed,

and our landscapes,

The Broken Cathedral

The Broken Cathedral

yet discover we remain young at heart and *best friends forever.

(*Cautionary note: the concept of ‘best friends forever’ was not one that was part of my colonial ‘growing up’. In our social circle, at school, at church, people came and went. Some came for 3 years, some for six months, some children only came ‘home’ for school holidays; there was no ‘forever’ in relationships. There was only now and a knowing that, eventually,  everyone would leave. Yet, it is that lack of permanence in our community that, somehow, continues to hold us together, forever. )

Sunday Best

Sunday Best

Update:  It’s almost a month now since my childhood  friend came to visit and we discussed, amongst many memories, our spiritual beginnings in the Anglican Church in Fiji. Our faith journeys have taken different paths since those early years, but I continue to find great solace and peace in Anglican church surroundings. For me, stepping in to certain Anglican churches is like a home-coming.

© silkannthreades

Looking Back

Still on the subject of my blogcation; first there were the  Preparations  and, then……..

My guest arrives….

We look back.

From 2014 to 1966

From 2014 to 1966

Mr Carter's classes

Mr Carter’s classes

The Two of  Us at Malolo Street 1966

The Two of Us at Malolo Street 1966

Mr Hodge's Sunday School Class 1964

Mr Hodge’s Sunday School Class 1964.  St Peter’s Anglican Church ,Father Butler’s residence, Drasa Avenue.

The Beginning

The Beginning : ‘When I was Three I was hardly me. When I was Four, I was not much more.’  A A Milne

Update: It has been a difficult week. It is tempting to look back to the past and think all was perfect. It was not. As a child I was dumbfounded, and unbelieving, when I realised that, at the age of five, I would be going to  Lautoka European School and my best friend would not. Fortunately, those policies were changed within the next few years as Fiji headed towards Independence, and my friend and I were able to spend a short time together at the renamed school. It became Drasa Avenue School.

The events of my current week, and  those contained in my post, seem to relate well to this quote

“Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere. Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind, spare to us our friends, soften to us our enemies.” 

This is the prayer inscribed on the bronze memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson in   St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland. Robert Louis Stevenson was, amongst many other things, a witness to the colonial history of the Pacific Islands. Clanmother writes (and recites) about Robert Louis Stevenson’s connection to  the Pacific  here.

© silkannthreades

 

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