Friday, 21 August 2015

Deja Vu

I come from a family who read a lot and I do too! The flagship outlet for Canada's prime chain of bookstores is just across the street from here so I drop in there quite frequently.

A month or two ago I went there looking for a new book to read and picked up "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" by Richard Flanagan   As this book was awarded the Man Booker Prize (which is Canada's premier award for fiction) and is a national bestseller as well - how could I go wrong with that purchase?

I did not err and - when I began to read it - I discovered a story that is set in parts of Australia where I lived for a few months many years ago - Tasmania and South Australia!

The story is about a few men and women who were living in Thailand during World War II where the men had been conscripted by the Japanese as slave labor to work on building a railroad. After that war ended they returned home and rural areas of both Tasmania and South Australia were where they located.

While working at that orchard I - and a few workmates - hiked over to Port Arthur a couple of times to visit the remnants of that prison (now an historic site) and the author of the book mentioned that place in passing.

I never stayed nor worked in South Australia but I did visit Adelaide on two or three occasions so while I am not familiar with the countryside that Mr. Flanagan mentions in his story - his references to the capital city I do remember. While traveling around Down Under I did encounter a couple of cyclones and - at least once - I could not leave where I was situated until the storm had passed.

Speaking only for myself, I do not know how accurate are my memories of places and events from 50 plus years ago. However, I kept a diary for many years and - lately - I have been rereading those notebooks which refreshed my memories.

In Tasmania I picked apples at an orchard located on the isthmus where the Port Arthur Historic Site is located. Most of the pickers were younger men around my age and we were very aware of the prison site and its significance so we hiked over to there a couple of times.

There is an old adage that states "One can never 'go back' " which is true but memories can carry one back to distant places and times.