Going back to the past
There is no going back to the past. The past has no memory. It is another place but one that has vanished. As L P Hartley wrote in The Go-Between, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” I’m sad that L P Hartley is not a relation of mine.
Barriers and boundaries
We wander about, wondering about our place in the world. We explore and we tour. Only in our heads can we ever go back to the past. The Rhodesia I was born in exists only on the shelves of the Zimbabwe National Archives. Everywhere in the world boundaries and borders are as fluid and migratory as humans are. Walls and fences go up to mark them but turn out to be as breakable as Humpty-Dumpty. Fences can offer only temporary safety, for we humans are brilliant at overcoming barriers and breaking boundaries.
Migration and war
I love those visual ideographs that show the moving changing borders of Europe over 1000 years or the ones that follow the migrations of people around the earth.
In my book The Tin Heart Gold Mine I reference the migrations that follow wars in the characters of Oscar, his sister, Bernie and Fred and Monika. My own family history is one of wars and migrations and this knowledge informs my book. While Britain suffered no invasions for 100s of years the British were busy invading and fighting elsewhere and Britain had military checkpoints on its Irish border until 1998.
My migratory family history
My great-great grandmother was a Nelson descended from a cousin of the Horatio Nelson who sacked Copenhagen and fought the French off the coast of Egypt. It was the end of the Napoleonic wars in Europe that drove my mother’s ancestors to risk a dangerous boat voyage to South Africa and a new life. Wars gave people work but peace made them poor again.
My great grandfather was a military tailor whose regiment fought all over Europe until it was sent to guard the eastern Cape border against the Xhosa. My grandmother’s Prussian parents fought for the British in the Crimea and then came to South Africa to trade. Two of my father’s uncles were in the Imperial Yeomanry in the Anglo-Boer War.
In the Second World War one of my soldier uncles died in Egypt. Another was a despatch rider in Italy. My father served in the Gold Coast Regiment. He fought the Italians in Abyssinia and was stationed in Kenya.
My stepfather dodged bombs in Malaya. It seems that we British were everywhere as soldiers and explorers. Our histories are very complex. I’m not advocating wars as a way of getting to know the world but wars took place. Can we learn from history and our part in it?
Are we citizens of the world? Do we love and care about the world? I think we are at our most human when we acknowledge our migratory nature and our interdependence as one human race. I am a migrant in the tradition of my family. I ran away from South Africa when I was 22, lived in Zambia through the liberation wars of those times, spent a year wandering through Europe with John and have at last migrated to the south-west of France. Where do I belong? Like you — I belong in the world.
Exciting News: The Tin Heart Gold Mine official book launch
Since my return from Paris, I have been occupied with preparing for the The Tin Heart Gold Mine official book launch, to be held at the Café du Centre, Maubourguet, at 19:00 on 24th March 2017.
The invitation went out on Friday 3rd March (2 weeks ago). If you want to be there, but haven’t received an email, please click [RSVP to Book Launch] to email me so I know you are coming. The Café du Centre are doing an evening menu that includes Fish & Chips so reserve your table.RSVP to Book Launch