Prior to Travel

A few weeks before Gorgeous Dunny and his delightful partner Sim left these shores, GD sent me the piece published below. This was the accompanying email:

I’m aiming on this journey to do a series of articles, loosely titled Journey Into My Past. I’m hoping to fuse my English-origin heritage views with some of my childhood perceptions, along with general reflections on life and values.

In particular I’m trying to articulate what made us what we are. The English-speaking peoples, as Winston liked to call them, have had a dominant influence over the past two centuries. It will last a while longer despite the rise of China and India. I’m trying to highlight what got them in this position. I don’t think it was any special virtue or industry, but more a series of events and the pragmatic way they adapted: taking something from the past and building on it.

The attached is intended as a preamble to where I’d like to go. I may not get there, since I’m keeping an open mind. It is also a useful digression from the horrors of Abbott-Murdoch government.

I would value your opinion on this piece and the general aim. You are free to run it at The Pub if you think it is interesting enough, but my main intent at present is just to test the waters.

I look forward to any feedback you may offer … at your leisure.

As always, GD, your thoughts are well worth publishing. Your travel experiences will be equally welcomed.

I wish you calm seas (airs) and a prosperous voyage, and a very happy and fulfilling time.

This series of stories relates to my reaching into my past. It is in both senses of the word: drawing on my boyhood education and experience, and reaching out into my ancestral influences.

It was inspired by my plans to visit England for the first time in my life. At 73 years, I am old enough to reflect on life influences. My known ancestral origins are flimsy enough not to justify too much time. My paternal ancestors appear to have come from Lincolnshire. My father’s mother, an Alderman, had grandparents from Wiltshire. I have no substantial information on my maternal ancestry of the Mortimers and O’Donnells.

So my journey to the Old Country on ancestry will not occupy much of the three weeks I will have there. In truth I had not had a burning desire to go there until my partner Sim expressed a desire to go. She is of Chinese Malaysian origins. She won a nursing cadetship for two years in England in the 1960s. An old friend from that time is living in the Midlands and is in poor health. Sim wants to see her again while there is still time.

We planned it with that in mind. However, later she indicated that a few hours would be sufficient and we could travel the rest of our time. I had limited funds and started travel plans with that in mind. I wanted to accrue the maximum I could within that limit and time.

I’d had an earlier career in tourism and used that experience in research and planning. Although that is over 30 years ago, a lot of the skills still remain in getting the best value. In addition, what can be found online now makes it easier than it was during my working days. I soon got used to checking out almost anything.

Once I got beyond the key basic points of air transport and accommodation I could look at what we wanted to see in the time we had. Sim’s friend and her husband live in the Midlands. I decided to fly to Birmingham Airport for that reason. It was an accidental but inspired choice as it turned out.

Also incidental was my decision to use the Britrail Pass for getting around. A variety of schemes were on offer. Since we were staying in England for three weeks, we settled on the 15-days (in one month) Flexipass. I also purchased a Metro London Oyster pass for the six days we’d have there. That meant that the 15 days of the Flexipass was ample for our requirements.

Although first class rail was barely needed (and on some services not available) for the relatively short distances, I decided to purchase for the modest extra expense above standard class. Aside from marginal extra comfort, it will almost certainly allow us seats on most services without advance notice. We will be travelling in the peak summer months, and some destinations can be much in demand for standard seats. There are also the minor perks of tea and newspapers.

An accidental discovery/purchase in an Op Shop here of a booklet on Hadrian’s Wall really got me going on planning. It re-awakened a childhood interest I’d had in Roman-occupied Britain. I thought more about British history and my childhood education on it.

My schooling was in the early post-War years in South Australia. It is fair to say that it was very much an Anglophile view of the world then. At Gawler Primary School, which I attended from 1948 to 1954, we had daily school assembly where we were marched into classroom lines. It began with the Oath of Allegiance.

I am an Australian
I love my country, the British Empire
I salute her flag, the Union Jack
I honour her King, King George VI
I promise cheerfully to obey her laws.

In later years the Monarch line became “… Queen, Queen Elizabeth II”. Another change soon after was the changing of the word “Empire” to “Commonwealth”. It took the teachers a few days of prompting to get that right. Probably it reflected the unavoidable reality that we were a self-governing Dominion. Yet the “…my country…” remained. It reflected the ambiguity.

We saw ourselves as Australians, especially in sport. But part of us remained British. Our passports then were headed “British Subject”. Personally, I like to think I found it offensive even then.

It was certainly against my Labor-Australian nationalist view, but that probably didn’t really occur until I was an adult. By then I resented the subservient word “subject” as much as “British”. As children, however, we saw the world as out-posted British subjects.

I remember our class teacher for grade 5 and grade 6 (1952 and 1953) Mr Horsnell talking enthusiastically on British history. Most of our teachers had served during the War. Although I didn’t know at the time, I’m sure a few probably qualified as teachers under Post-War Repatriation program scholarships.

We were told of the Roman conquest and occupation. Boadicea was portrayed as a hero for leading a rebellion. We were led to believe that the Celtic Britons offered some resistance but were outmatched in war by the Romans. We showed patriotic empathy for the Britons.

So much so that Mr Horsnell felt it necessary to point to the positives that came from the Roman occupation. Foremost was the civilising influence. Roads, bridges and ports were constructed. Water supply and baths were introduced, and cities with stone buildings were built. The Roman Villa was probably the forerunner of the manors and country estates later to dominate. Very likely the words “villain” and “village” derived from it. The Romans brought villages, towns and cities to Britain. Celtic huts and cottages were primitive in comparison. The Britons gradually accepted the more advanced civilisation, which later brought Christianity to Britain.

The forays, invasions and then settlements of Angles, Saxons and Jutes, at least from the account given by Bede, presented a few problems for this empathy view. Then the theory was that the Britons were swept aside: that those surviving ended up in Wales and the more remote western parts. The rest were exterminated.

Explaining that in an empathetic manner to schoolchildren was not easy. Our teacher went along with the official line that the invaders, though our ancestors, were barbaric and wilfully cast aside the civilising parts of Roman Britain. In addition, they went back to pagan gods (which explains how some of our days like Wednesday and Thursday got their names) from Christian Britain. And that it took St Augustine coming to get it back on the Christian path.

I didn’t like the Anglo-Saxons much on that account, ancestors or not. More recent historical research has suggested a more nuanced view. That is, the Saxons and others may well have come there over a longer period. That the Romans might well have asked them to come as mercenaries or allies to boost a thin Roman force against other invaders. If they were capable warriors it would have helped.

They have also suggested that the Anglo-Saxons out-fought the Briton elite once the Romans had gone, and became the new elite. Germanic Old English and not the Celtic languages became the primary language. It might have been more convenient for trade.

Far from trashing the Roman influence, they seemed to adapt to it. They did bring their pagan gods, but gradually became Christian. The Viking-Danish raids and then conquests and settlements led to a further phase under Danelaw. They came to control about a third of the country (albeit it was not then really a single country but several kingdoms).

Their Norse language was closely related to the Germanic Old English. It probably led to a hybrid English language being formed. The Norman conquerors, however, had since settling at Normandy adopted French as their primary language. French did not take on as well with the conquered people. Over time it was easier for Normans to adapt to English than the other way round.

A peculiarity, as English evolved, was the variations in dialect and vocabulary in the different counties. The example given us was the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which was written in the North. It differs from Mallory’s King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, even though from the same mythology that led to it.

The legend of King Arthur and Camelot provides examples of how such events, if they did occur, can be purloined for national identity. The Welsh refer to him as “the once and future king”. At school we’d imagined him as a Briton king resisting the Romans. However, since the name was Roman-origin, it seems more likely he led resistance against the Anglo-Saxons. He probably passed into English folklore as they integrated with the Celts. And perhaps he was the symbol of a better age before the Norman Conquest.

The legend of King Arthur made its way into Norman folklore, and possibly thence into French. It might have helped that the greatest knight, Sir Lancelot, was French. Both cultures emphasised castles, monasteries and chivalry.

Other folk legend heroes such as Robin Hood and Hereward had their origins in Norman oppression. I gained an impression that it was ruthless and brutal in the early centuries. It softened a little with the Black Plague, and later the ending of French possessions. Anglicising would have occurred from then. The island separation from the Continent then allowed a more local development.

It is that isolation that contributed to its development in the succeeding centuries. Prior to larger-scale trade and capitalism, feudal wealth came from land ownership and what could be produced from it. The barons and landowners quickly realised that they had no wealth from their land unless crops were harvested and livestock were raised.

The Black Plague took out at least half and probably more than that of the labouring classes. There were not enough to do the work, and owners had to bid for those that were available. It ended serfdom and led to higher wages. Lords fought rearguard actions to suppress wages. They were only partly successful. More independent workers and yeoman helped contribute to more upward mobility and independent thinking. The corruption in episcopal and monasterial control of worship and lives was challenged.

That occurred more than a century before Henry VIII’s severing of ties to the Catholic Church. It was during the Tudor reign, however, that England emerged as a single monarchy with a strong growing navy. The Renaissance era was most conspicuous through the development of theatre in the Elizabethan and Jacobean drama.

The emergence of the Puritans challenged the Church’s dominance in social control. Catholic versus anti-Catholic squabbles was just the beginning. So there was upward mobility, gradual freedom of expression and being open to new ideas. The creation of a navy under Alfred became still bigger under the Tudors, leading to an imperial expansion.

So the modern nation started to take shape from about the time of the Magna Carta in 1215. Politically, most of the landmarks are about the limits of power: how the rights of subjects are maintained in return for loyalty and obedience. It is simplifying to suggest it was a continuum, or that most were not won without bloodshed. Over generations it gradually extended to common law and to all.

Culturally, the Renaissance came a little later than it had to other parts of Europe. Chaucer was an early example is a poet/diplomat, helping to establish English over Latin or French for poetry. It reached a maturing during the Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre. In poetry, the flowering of Spenser and Shakespeare soon led to the Metaphysical Poets. And the King James Version of the Bible was an outstanding literary achievement in addition to putting the sacred text into English.

Despite Civil War and several revolutions, the 17th and early 18th centuries offered a transition to the Age of Enlightenment and the rapid growth in science following Newton. Wealth from the growing empire encouraged enquiry.

The Canal Age expedited transport and trade. Some brilliant engineering occurred and that was to continue during the Steam Age and the Industrial Revolution. England got a huge jump on the rest of the world, allowing empire and trade to expand through the Victorian Years.

One of Australia’s greatest writers, David Malouf, once commented on the differences between the English settlements in the USA and Australia. America was founded in the Puritan Age; Australia in the Age of Enlightenment.

Our two greatest navigators, Cook and Flinders, mapped our land. Governor Macquarie extended the emancipation of convicts to positions of office. From that the ideas of equality of opportunity flowed to my country.

So there will be much to absorb in just a few weeks as I come to terms with my ancestral origins.

294 thoughts on “Prior to Travel

  1. Good morning Dawn Patrollers. The Bishop B story inundates the media yet again as it spins out of control for Abbott.

    Mark Kenny has given up on Abbott and his hand-picked maiden, Bronny. It’s a spectacular own goal, he says.
    And down go the Aussies, batsmen mostly!
    The “prestigious” Scotch College faces more child abuse claims.
    Michael Gordon says it’s too little too late for Bronny.
    And Lenore Taylor exposes Bronny’s motives in making the “apology”
    Labor says that all Bishop cares about is saving her own thick hide.
    Michelle Grattan weighs in with her thoughts on the matter.
    This Fairfax editorial slams Bronny for failing the standards test. Again!
    “View from the Street” laughs at white people lecturing indigenous people about racism. And, of course, he has a bit to say about Bronny.
    The source of its funding goes on full display with this outpouring from the IPA.,7999

  2. Section 2 . . .

    Market forces come into play in my local area.
    This is an interesting case. Etihad agrees that it is not unforeseeable that one could be required to be sitting next to a morbidly obese person who significantly encroaches into one’s (meagre) seating space. Have they ruined their own defence by putting forward this proposition?
    Stopping the boats – a guide for lazy journalists (of which there is a plentiful supply!),7992
    25000 APS jobs threatened by the government’s “digital transformation”.
    Ten questions for Bernardi and Wong.
    Andrew Dyson thinks Bronny is just hanging on.

    Of course David Pope is having a ball with Bronny.

    A nice juxtaposition of issues by Mark Knight.

    Bill Leak and Bronny’s famous hypocrisy speech.


  3. So good to imagine Bronnie looking at all the cartoons every morning. Not so long ago she was watching with delight the “Ditch the Witch” placards.

    I really can’t see how she can survive all that onslaught. It’s really nasty.

  4. A good idea … the right to have a home:

    “I absolutely support Sr Stan’s call for a referendum on the right to a home – if we got that into our Constitution and legislation, the government would have to act on it though I don’t think they will ever risk putting it in the constitution,” said Fr McVerry.
    “But if it was included in the Constitution, you would have the problem solved in time as obviously they wouldn’t have the resources to provide everyone with a home tomorrow but they would be obliged to allocate the resources to bring it to a reality over time.”

  5. So now Papua New Guinea rejects us..take note, Aust’ is being isolated like we , as a nation are isolating our minorities…WE are the minority in an Asia of circa 2 billion peoples…

    This “govt'” is a danger to our future…the GG. must act.

  6. Two years on and this rotten government is still claiming all the credit for Labor’s work.

    There was this, in today’s local paper –

    The sod-turning ceremony was dripping with National Party politicians types state and federal. Uncharitable types might say it was hard to tell which was the actual sod being turned and which was Wazza Truss. Only our state MP was missing from the line-up – she probably had to attend another photo opportunity somewhere else, for which those attending should have been grateful.

    This work was planned, put out to tender and funded under the Rudd and Gillard governments. It would not have been considered at all by a Coalition government. Previous Coalition governments had done the bare minimum to upgrade the Pacific Highway, progress under Rudd and Gillard was outstanding. The work is continuing only because the process was too far advanced for this government to stop. Now we have to keep on enduring hordes of National politicians cutting ribbons, turning sods and claiming all the credit for the work of others.

    Next up for a big ceremony will be the opening of the new Charles Sturt University campus here, due early next year. A facility no Coalition government would ever have considered for this electorate. Thanks Rob, thanks Julia. No-one is going to thank either of you on opening day.

    In the term of this government there has been no new infrastructure announced for this electorate that was not already planned and funded by Labor. Nothing. Not a cracker.

  7. Bolt says he grew up in Darwin and that they revered their indigenous sports people. I don’t know which part of Darwin HE grew up in, but THIS is the kind of Darwin I remember.
    It is a almost verbatim account of an episode told to me by the male involved…it is by no account an isolated incident in my experience in that “colourful” metropolis.

    Proverb: “Those with sour mouths cannot spit sweetness.”

    Parable: Jim Parker worked as a motor mechanic in his own garage in Darwin. His wife; Cynthia worked in an hotel in one of the outer suburbs. After work, Jim would drive to the hotel, pick up his wife and give her a lift home. This evening he was late.

    “What took you so long?” his wife complained.

    “I had to finish Mr Black’s truck, he wanted it tomorrow.”

    “Oh yeah, so who’s more important; me or Mr Black’s truck?” She didn’t want or expect an answer, but snatched her bag from the desk and pushed the door open to the carpark. Jim followed two or three steps behind. As she strode toward their car, she came near a group of aborigines lounging about drinking beers. One of the women was sitting on the bonnet of a car that belonged to one of her workmates Cynthia didn’t like aborigines at all!

    “Get off that car you black bitch!” She snarled as she walked past.

    Suddenly: “Wham!” she was hit and knocked to the ground by one of the aborigine men standing close by. Jim pulled up in shock with his arms spread and his mouth open. The Aborigine women, as if by some pre-arranged strategy quickly removed one of their shoes and thrust them into the hands of their men standing there. Jim dashed forward for the fight and was confronted with a “wall of men” with the shoes in their raised fists ready to strike. Although a seasoned “scrapper”, Jim saw at an instant this was too much to take on. He halted and glared around in anger, the men glared back, their raised arms wavering.

    “Hit him Jim, hit him, hit him…go on you coward…hit him!!.. his wife yelled, one arm propping herself up off the bitumen. Jim felt the insult rake across his brain.

    “Go on, hit him I said…oh you…you coward!” She wept.

    “Shut up Cyn, for Gods sake shut up and get in the car before I hit you!” And they drove away. But all the way home she lay into his manhood so that he dropped her off and grabbed his shotgun and returned to “settle things”. But of course there was no-one in the car-park when he got there. Jim sat brooding in his car with nothing to calm his anger and the bitterness of his wife’s accusations biting into his soul.

  8. jaycee

    I had a friend who spent a few months in Darwin; that was before the cyclone. One day, I’ll ask her to describe Darwin and the people as seen through her own eyes.

  9. ESA have just released the photos from Philae as it came down to land on the comet.k. The series of pics taken from the bottom of the lander starts at 3 km above the surface and ends at 9 meters . It is an animated gif so if it does not work on this page go to this lin



  10. Using slaughterhouse waste including skin, bone and tendons, Stössel discovered that adding an organic solvent to an aqueous gelatine solution resulted in a formless mass that he was able to press into an elastic thread.

    Working with the materials science laboratory EMPA in St Gallen, Stössel refined his method to a point where he was able to produce 200 metres of thread a minute, twisting 1,000 fibres into a yarn, from which he was able to knit a glove.

    The extremely fine fibres are half the thickness of a human hair, and microscope images show them to be filled with cavities, which researchers think may account for their good insulation properties, similar to merino wool.


    Tony Abbott has said he understands voter anger over politicians’ use of taxpayer-funded entitlements, saying he himself had flown economy to Europe with his family, as “that’s what the people do”.

    …. when they have to pay for it themselves, and they’re too cheap to spring for better seating for their family despite being on a substantial income, and presumably able to afford it.

    I am extremely doubtful that he’s ever flown economy when he’s been claiming taxpayer-funded travel.

  12. KK

    Yes, I read that in the local paper. What a finding! Teeth haven’t changed much, have they? Same length, same shape, same smokey colour …

  13. By the way, there is a poll at the bottom of that article: ‘Now that Bronwyn Bishop has apologised and will pay back expenses related to trips to weddings, should she remain as Speaker?

    Over 30,000 votes so far, and 97% of them are for ‘No, Bishop has fatally undermined public trust in her as Speaker’

  14. gigilene

    It is amazing how long hominids have been in Europe. I always associate stuff from that far back with Africa. Saw an episode of Time Team where they found stuff in the UK from 200,000 years ago, This from last year beat that by a fair bit. The wildlife in the UK at the time would have made for an ‘interesting’ life ,hyenas, lions, bears and sabre-toothed giant cats,elephants, rhinoceri, hippopotami.

    Meet the million-year-olds: Human footprints found in Britain are the oldest ever seen outside of Africa
    Extraordinary new evidence of Britain’s first human inhabitants has been discovered in Norfolk. Around 50 footprints, made by members by an early species of prehistoric humans almost a million years ago, have been revealed by coastal erosion near the village of Happisburgh, in Norfolk, 17 miles north-east of Norwich.

  15. Abbott certainly has some cheek – lecturing us about the virtues of travelling cattle class when that trip to France was a private family holiday he paid for himself. Anyone want to bet he asked for a free upgrade to business class on the return flight?

    I want to remind everyone about all the times Abbott has claimed air fares and accommodation for trips to compete in triathlons and surf swims. Most of the time his entry fees were paid for by the sponsors because they thought having the then LOTO compete would draw attention. If he didn’t have all his costs met by us mugs and by sponsors he would not have bothered competing.

    Then there’s the infamous Pollie Pedal – he says every year riders stay in caravan parks, but he still claims the maximum allowed accommodation expenses for his rides. Some of the others taking part claim no expenses at all, they are to be congratulated for doing that. But for Abbott is has always been just another rort.

    The problem is the way these entitlements reports are dealt with. Everyone claims the maximum allowance for wherever they stay, even though they would rarely pay anywhere near that amount. Reports are waived through without any scrutiny at all. It’s not until the figures are published, months later, that anyone gets a chance to actually look at what what those expenses involve. This time Bronnie was caught out.

  16. gigilene

    Re your comment about Dave Cameron’s “swarm’ . A UK ‘toonist looks at the issue.

  17. KK

    I think similar metaphors have been used in France. The words just escape me now. And I’ll be waiting for some cartoons. Hanson loves such language. Silly poil de carotte … Sorry, not very nice of me …

  18. More Abbott extragance/rorting –

    There’s this –
    Questions over Tony Abbott’s VIP flight to Melbourne to attend donor’s birthday bash

    That tired old ‘I had other work-realted engagements to attend’ lie.

    And then there’s this – a quick speech to justify private use of the VIP jet to fly to a Liberal Party function.
    Tony Abbott’s visit to cancer hospital used to ‘justify’ fund-raising visit

    And then there’s this waste of money – flying from Canberra to Sydney for a 20 minute presser, then flying straight back to Canberra.
    Tony Abbott uses VIP jet to fly to Sydney for a 20-minute press conference on foreign investment

  19. Julia’s book sold 62,000 copies in 2014, in just a few months too. It’s still selling. It was the political best seller of 2014.

    Battlelines, did not do nearly as well. Only 20,000 copies were sold, and we have no idea how many of those ended up in the remainder bins for 2.95

  20. About time, but so condescending. Goodes deserves only ‘a basic level of support’?

    PM calls for end to Goodes booing

    Abbott chose 2SM radio, a station hardly anyone listens to, for his very brief comment. Obviously Abbott’s usual station of choice, 2GB, was out of the question because Alan Jones doesn’t think booing indigenous footballers is racist. And he didn’t want to upset/alienate 2GB’s audience of aged bigots by offering half-hearted support to Goodes. Abbott will need every one of those votes, come the election.

    Bill Shorten personally contacted Goodes to offer his support.

  21. Tuesday week will be interesting

    Labor has ratcheted up its threats about causing disruption when Federal Parliament resumes, warning that if Bronwyn Bishop remains in the Speaker’s chair cooperation across the dispatch box will evaporate.

    Tony Burke, the manager of opposition business, said Labor would continue to press for Mrs Bishop to resign despite her apology yesterday.

    Earlier this week Mr Burke said Labor would no longer respect the Speaker when she tried to chair proceedings.

    Now he has broadened that to all cooperation between the two major parties, apart from parliamentary motions to mark the loss of life.

  22. I like the first comment:

    That will keep Pyne on the hop as he signals her about what he wants her to do.

    Hopping and signalling are exactly what he does.

  23. Just had a look at the betting odds for the next election. For quite a while the market was fairly steady, with the Coalition at around $1.50 and the ALP at around $2.55. In the past few days there’s been a bit of action, and it’s now Coalition $1.63 and ALP $2.25. That’s quite a plunge on the ALP.

    The main reason most political commentators have been predicting a Coalition victory in the next election is “follow the betting markets”. The only other one they’ve had to resort to is “incumbency”. The idea of incumbency has taken a few hits to the head given the results in Queensland and Victoria. If the betting market continues to tighten, I think the narrative is going to have to change – and the odds on this government actually seeing out its full term ought to come down a bit too.

    They’ll have to take the ALP seriously as a contender pretty soon.

  24. Isn’t it wonderful! Bronny’s cloud may well have a silver lining for parliamentary democracy.

  25. Aguirre

    Abbott loves trashing parliamentary convention so Abbott smashing the ‘convention’ about first term governments being re-elected would be very fitting.

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