In 1952 I travelled from Glasgow to Wellington, New Zealand, on the ship ss Captain Hobson with my parents.
After leaving Panama, my father became seriously ill and spent the rest of the journey in the ship’s infirmary. Then, on arrival in New Zealand he was rushed straight to Wellington Hospital where he hovered between life and death for six weeks. Thankfully he survived the ordeal but by that time the position he was promised in New Zealand had been given to someone else.
It was a rotten start to my parents’ new life Down Under.
Reflecting on what triggered this particular incident, I suppose it could be because I’ve just written an article for a magazine about the importance of recording people’s life stories.
Clients often ask whether I intend writing my own story one day, and like many people, I usually respond by saying “I haven’t got time” or “well, I’m not famous so who would want to read my story?” Yet, when you think about it, as the little extract above proves, we all have special memories with which to weave the intricate fabric of our lives – and our individual stories are an important link in the ongoing chain of our family history.
Being a migrant myself, I have a special interest in writing about people who arrived in Australia and New Zealand as early settlers and who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve happy, successful lives. Just as my parents fulfilled their vision of emigrating to New Zealand and establishing a better life for their family, I talk to many ordinary people who have lived challenging, but interesting lives; whose courage both inspires and encourages me in my own life journey. And fame has nothing to do with that.
In 2012, I fulfilled the first of one of my treasured life goals – to travel the world, talk to people and write their stories. I house-sat in Auckland, New Zealand, for a friend who was holidaying in Europe (following her own dreams). It was incredibly challenging because not only did I return to the country where I grew up, I lived in a city I hardly knew, inhabited an unfamiliar house, drove a different car and lived alone.
It was quite testing at times, but as I extended myself, meeting and making new friends, I believed I was also enriching my life. And taking this leap of faith proved extremely fortuitous in many ways, because it included the privilege of writing a memoir for a lady in Auckland.
I always admired my Dad’s fortitude and that he was still operating his grain and seed business six months before he died at age 83 – and I hope I can continue to follow my dreams, embrace challenge and enjoy a productive and worthwhile lifestyle for many years to come.