Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sea change

Up until the age of sixteen, I was an adolescent in a dull Australian place named Grafton, where the Good Lord surely intended that nothing unusual should ever happen, not even my birth. In my time, this magnificent landscape had sadly lost its pioneering soul before losing forever its spirit of social evolution and economic development. Today, Grafton is a charming empty carcass, whose sole awareness is the fact that it's a boring old town, with nothing to say nor even hide.

Downstream, at the estuary of the Clarence River, our outlet on the Pacific Ocean was named Yamba. In 1954, surrounded by school friends, I found it an enthralling place.

My most moving recollection of Yamba dates from the summer of 1957. I had returned to Grafton after a year at the University of Sydney, and my parents had decided kindly to take me on an excursion down to Yamba... which I had not visited for quite some time. I remember, as if it were yesterday, that my father Bill Skyvington had parked his LandRover while Kath was buying food down in the new shopping area of Yamba. I was exploding internally with the urge to tell my father that, during my first year in Sydney, I had just encountered a fabulous corpus of knowledge about the nature of the world. I can even recall the slim volume of relativity physics that had engendered my enthusiasm. In a backstreet of Yamba, on that sunny afternoon, I tried naively to transmit an iota of my enthusiasm to my father. He looked at me as if I were a Martian, and informed me abruptly that he had no time for such nonsense... which was vastly less urgent, in his mind, than the question of earning one's living by grazing and slaughtering beef cattle (my father's business). By the time my mother returned from her shopping, I had lost forever all possible intellectual intimacy with my paternal progenitor. In an instant of incomprehension between a father and his son, on that sunny Yamba afternoon, I moved forever away from my ancestral ignorance... into enlightenment.

In my mind, Yamba remained nevertheless a seaside sanctuary, which my children were able to encounter briefly with joy during their teens.

Today, I learn sadly from the Australian media that something seems to have gone wrong at Yamba [display]. Is it just Yamba, I ask innocently, or Australia at large?

1 comment:

  1. That's a sad story; I feel for that adolescent boy trying to bridge a gulf as wide as the Pacific Ocean. Poor you, poor Dad! I always thought that Yamba was Mum's chosen resort; Dad preferred Woolgoolga or Minny Waters, where there were fewer "rubbernecks".