Saturday, February 25, 2012

Belshaw's World - when life was an ocean wave

I really, really, don’t feel like being serious in this column. As I write it’s Monday night Garden Party Buckingham Palace 2and I’m feeling very tired. Today has been quite a good day and I should feel pleased, but I just feel jaded.

There are lots of things that I should write about if only to say that I told you so. Yet the spirit is not there. Instead, I am going to do something simple and share some photos with you.

Don’t expect anything serious, this is just a ramble!

I found this simple family snap among our photos, just an ordinary family. Well, perhaps not quite so ordinary.

It used to be the case that Australians beat a path to the UK and to Europe as soon as they could. It was part of a right of passage for those who could afford it.

Of course, in those days you went by ship. The next photo is simply entitled "On the Sports' Deck on Orion 22nd April 1952". It shows AuntsOn the Sports' Deck on Orion 22nd April 1952 Margaret and Kay and my grandparents on their way to England.

Now there is an irony in this photo that I have discussed before.

I belong to the age group that discovered Asia as a new and romantic frontier. Those who were older than me like Clive James or Germaine Greer rushed to England and really never returned. Now they pontificate from afar.

To many of us who were a little younger, Asia was the thing. Armidale writer Francis Letters’ The Surprising Asians was one of the first Asian travel books written from what we might call today a back packer perspective.

It’s not surprising that Armidale people should discover Asia. After all, the Asian student proportion among UNE’s undergraduates in the 1960s was far higher than today.

This next photo shows students getting ready for Overseas Week in 1960.Overseas Week 1960

The irony in the ship photo lies in the fact that today Australia’s young have fallen in love with Europe in the same way their grand parents and great grand parents did! Asia has been forgotten.

In modern multicultural Australia, our young know far more about the cafes of Florence or Venice than they do about any Asian city. Knowledge of Asia has been relegated to very specific things such as tubing on the Mekong, something I wrote about in this column several years ago.

Even in 1952, ship was still the main means of international travel. The idea of a four week dash to Europe to see the sites was rare.

This meant that those travelling often went for much longer periods. In the case in question, my grandparents and aunts were away for twelve months.

Sifting through the family shots, people did much the same things as today. They toured, visited sites, swam and ate. There are the same type of shots of buildings and street scenes. Presentation party

One difference between then and now was a much greater focus on England.

This trip coincided with the coronation of the new queen, and the girls took every opportunity to experience the occasion. This included presentation to the new queen where, by accident, the girls were the first to be presented to the new monarch, something that was reported in the Australian papers.

The last photo shows Aunt Kay dressed for the occasion.

Four photos, a glimpse into a past world.

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on 15 February 2012. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012.