Thursday, December 24, 2009

Van Deiman's Land

"Van Deiman's Land is hell on a man, to live out his whole life in slavery... (Christy Moore, Back home in Derry)
My son took me to the Blarney Brothers concert last night as a belated but much appreciated Birthday or early Christmas present. Mostly they play cheerful variety of pub Irish folk music (although they did do 'Jerusalem' (not the Corries version - 'last night I borrowed a full dress suit, to go to a full-dress ball, the trousers were too large for me, the jacket was too small, I cut 3 feet off the trouser-leg, and then I tried it out... and I walked across the floor... you could hear the people shout: "You're losing them, YOU'RE LOSING THEM...")

Still, in the odd sideways and roundabout way my mind works, I got to thinking about the transported convicts - many Irish and Scots, some criminals by our modern standards, some victims of circumstance and a social system that was largely non-existent, and some political prisoners, seeking to break free of a repressive system. And Tassie - green, fertile, well-watered Tasmania was the place for the worst. And they found it -- besides harsh gaolers -- tough to survive. Escape? you'd likely starve (or turn cannibal). A far call from our 'pampered' -- by comparison -- move. Still it does seem that if there is an easy way and a hard way to do things, we'll pick 'hard' everytime, even blindfolded. yesterday we took the McGyver crates with dive gear, tents, climbing gear, to be airfreighted... today we had to go back. because the crates were too heavy - not for Australia, but for Hobart. So now 8kgs of stuff needs to get into our luggage or stay behind. Fun... The bank called saying things were sorted there... and B's been there for several hours. Our dinner plans - a chicken deboned and stuffed with a tongue cooked in red wine had to have a radical re-think. Our departure from Howick is now one day later -just in time to pick up Pads - as we have a Wake to go to. And so we muddle on... Still I hope we find Tassie more bountiful than those convicts did and don't imitate the many shipwrecked early sailors here -who starved to death in the midst of plenty that they didn't recognise.
"And a rebel I came, and I'm still the same, though my comrades ghosts march beside me."
Here's to us, and here's to memory of the Ghosts on the land. May you all have a joyous Christmas - it must just about be there now. And I must go and see to the choc-based pecan nut pie.

1 comment:

  1. You'll have to read Fatal Shores by Robert Hughes - a very readable history of transportation, both horror stories and success stories.

    My grandfather learned to read and write from a ticket-of-leave man - on an island, oddly enough. My family owned Churchill Island off Phillip Island, Victoria, at the time. Not that far from Flinders Is...but somewhat less exposed to the elements.

    Looking forward to your tales of crazy Australians and culture shock! (Been there, done that, but sort of in reverse.)