I would describe my earliest memories as ‘dirty & free’, as in the type of dirt that makes your Mum embarrassed because it may reflect on parenting techniques. My sister had a collection of caterpillars that she carried around in her pockets and forgot to tell Mum about when Mum did the washing.
I think my brother could safely say that he always wanted to be a farmer because I remember the variety of ways that he found to plough up the garden.
We grew up on a farm.
There were always summer holidays at the beach. A caravan holiday to Albany in the south of Western Australia, numerous holidays in Busselton at holiday houses. Water was scarce where I grew up, but even before I could swim I thought I could swim. And almost drowned.
When I was twelve we piled up the car and drove from Perth across Australia and up to Queensland and back. Mum & Dad and three kids on a road trip. One of the funniest things that happened on that trip – my brother was age 16 and a fan of The Sweet. He played the first few bars of ‘Blockbuster’ on his (I guess) radio cassette player that he had in the back seat. The audio is a police siren, and so Dad panicked and pulled over.
My high school yearbook, that I’ve lost because I’m not a great hoarder, said that I wanted to join Foreign Affairs and then go on to be the Prime Minister.
I studied politics at University and then joined Foreign Affairs. In my summer holidays I worked at a roadhouse in the outback of Western Australia when my more well to do friends went to Europe. In the Foreign Affairs Dept we were allowed to nominate which Embassies or Consulates that we’d like to work in according to a list of vacancies that came out, and we may nor may not get our choice.
Early on I concentrated on countries that I thought would be harder to visit later because of cost or instability, and didn’t pay much attention to countries that in my mind ‘would always be there’. When I put Vietnam at the top of my list and then got nervous waiting to hear whether or not I’d been successful, my colleagues laughed because no one else wanted to go.
But there was never a moment where I can say ‘that’s when I decided to travel’. It is mainly to do with having adventures.
Which makes me think that the urge for adventures must have come from books. We didn’t have a TV until fairly late in my childhood and even then it was black and white and only worked when the generator was running. But we had shelves and shelves of books.
Searching back in my memory, these are the some of the influential books.
The Scarlet Pimpernel
The one I know almost by heart. Lord Percy, the French revolution and Lady Blakeney. “They seek him here, they seek him there, they seek him almost everywhere. Be he in heaven, or be he in hell (gasp), that damned elusive Pimpernel”. Written by Baroness Orczy who apparently said that when she read what was be written and successful, said ‘if that is all it takes, I can do better than that!’.
Enid Blyton – the Fabulous Five, the Secret Seven and the Magic Faraway Tree
A while ago, I had a memory tugging at me about a book that I’d absorbed rather than read and it was about a tree where you climb to the top and there is a magic place. I’d forgotten all about the Magic Faraway Tree. And the Fab Five who just did stuff. If there was a problem they’d solve it with little to no assistance from adults.
The Narnia Chronicles
Popular again since the recent films. As a child, I read the whole series in about a week. Even though I grew up in a strongly Christian environment I completely missed all the allegorical stuff about Jesus. It was just a top adventure.
Lord of the Rings
Another top adventure. Obviously a bit out of my league in terms of personal involvement – I wouldn’t even be able to walk that far let along have wars with trolls and orcs and have to deal with giant spiders.
I don’t think Jane Eyre really counts as an adventure but it is up there with the Scarlett Pimpernel in terms of how many times I’ve read it. But she did wander off by herself and had a mind of her own when it came to bigamy.
The Incredible Journey
I remember Mum reading us that one as we sat with our feet in and on the wood stove, keeping warm. It is a true story about a dog and a cat that I think got confused when their owners moved interstate. The animals made their way back to the original home.
A series of historical romance novels with typically a feisty female lead character who is too tall, and an insipid but pretty girl and the feisty tall one gets the guy, after perhaps robbing a stage coach with him.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Feisty female character who went off to become a writer instead of marrying the hot guy.
Huckleberry Finn & Tom Sawyer (read to us by our Mum)
You hardly ever read books that, if you get a wart say to see a doctor, take appropriate medication and if pain persists … etc. They are boring. In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer on the other hand the recommendation if you get a wart is to find a dead cat, go to the cemetery at midnight and then swing it round your head seven times. They don’t say ‘beware of caves and only go to the ones that are well lit and sign posted’, they visit the caves with a roll of string so that if you get lost you can follow the string back out again. Much more exciting.
Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner, published in 1894
The adventures of the seven children growing up on a farm, who are mean to their young step-mother when their father re-marries. Includes lots of outdoor hijinks and a tragedy for the main female character, Judy.
Little House on the Prairie series
Laura Ingalls and family. Based on truth. Before I read these books I didn’t even know what a prairie was, and it was a long time after this that I first saw snow. The story that I remember most from Little House on the Prairie is when Mr Ingalls had to tie a rope between the house and the shed so that when there was a blizzard he didn’t get lost in those 100m or so. Similar to Tom Sawyer and the string in the cave. Maybe that was another precursor to my life, because now I work mainly on the Operations side of event management and if we ever organised an event where we had to factor in a blizzard or a sand storm I would definitely remember the rope trick.
So the list above I think presents a pretty persuasive case that it was books like these that influenced my choices later in life. I should add a warning to read these books at your peril. You might be compelled to take the adventurous path, and this my friend may not always be the easy one.
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