Friday, January 04, 2008


We received a Christmas card from a very old acquaintance, Don, who lives in Caboolture in Queensland. Inside the card were some old photos which brought back some fascinating memories.

Don Marsh worked with Bernie's brother Mick up in New Guinea back in the late 1950's. Bernie, who had also spent some time in Port Moresby, had also met Don on one or two occasions.

In about 1976, Don decided to come to Norfolk Island for a holiday, and we offered to put him up. At the time, we were pretty busy with four children aged 1, 2, 3 and 4 - but Don well and truly earned his keep by entertaining them and keeping them amused.

By day he would take Miriam and Charles on long walks all over the island. Although they were only 3 and 4 at the time, they both had great stamina, and never complained of being tired, something that amazed and delighted Don, who really enjoyed their company. The picture shows a picture Don took of them on one of the walks, down at Cascade.

In the evenings, Don would sit and draw pictures for them, and he would also regale them with wonderful tales. He told them he was named after a very famous duck, and to this day we all refer to him as Donald Duck. Another story he loved to tell was of his childhood on the Rock of Gibralter. He told us that as a very young child, he had gone missing from the garden. He said he was eventually found, he said, being nursed and suckled by one of the Barbary Apes!!

One day Don announced that as a project, he and the children would build a kite. We were sent off to find and cut suitable bamboo for the framework. Then we had to get loads of newspapers. I was kept busy in the kitchen for days making batch after batch of cornflour paste. It was an ambitious project, and the kite was going to be enormous!

Now around this time, there was a visiting Equestrian Instructor conducting classes on the Oval down next to Rawson Hall. Bernie was taking part in the lessons. On this particular day, I had taken the younger children down to watch the horses and riders, while Don and Miriam stayed behind to put the finishing touches to the kite.

Now I want you to imagine the scene - a line of well-groomed and well-trained horses lined up obediently, their riders positioned elegantly on their backs, listening to the instructions from the teacher. Suddenly all the horses startle, and a couple take off. We look to see what has unsettled them.

Through the gates of the Rawson Hall grounds comes Donald Duck, holding the gigantic kite, while little 4 year old Miriam dutifully trots behind him, holding the "tail."

They were quickly encouraged to take the kite out of sight to the valley behind. They did actually manage to get the huge kite into the air, but it crashed into the trees on its maiden flight, and was quite beyond repair. Never mind, they were content, the whole experience had been enormous fun.

And more serendipity....

The other day, while waiting for Bernie to finish a phone call, I had a play on Google with "Serendipity." For what it is worth, here is a little of what I learned:
*Although coined in 1754, the use of the word was very uncommon until 1960! It was also around this time that the adjective "serendipitous" came into use.

*Since that time, its use has exploded, and is frequently used commercially to name businesses and product lines. Here on Norfolk Island for a while we had a shop called "Serendipity," which was quite appropriate because the owner came from Sri Lanka.

*Many think the meaning of the word is in danger of becoming diluted and debased. In the dictionary it is close to the words "serene" and "serenade", and is in danger of just being associated with anything that is charming, pleasant, and with "feel good" associations.

*In response to my blog, and my description of finding something useful for my craft when I was looking for groceries, someone (I suspect it was my daughter)commented:"It's called getting side-tracked. I do it all the time. People hate it!"

*An American journalist, William McKeene, wrote a piece in which he bemoaned the fact that modern technology may be putting serendipity in danger. We type specific subjects into search engines instead of browsing and thumbing through the books in a library . We get our news headlines online instead of browsing through a newspaper. We download particular music onto our ipods etc, and only listen to those, instead of being exposed to a wide variety of music on the radio. Each member of the family listens to their own favourite music, watches their own TV shows etc, instead of getting to sample what other people and family members enjoy, and perhaps discovering they enjoy them too!

Now I partly agree with these sentiments, but I have to insist that my sessions surfing the net, although they may start with a specific purpose, have often led me on the most wonderful trails of discovery, and I have well and truly enjoyed being "sidetracked"!

*I was truly amazed to find, on just the fifth page of my google-trip, that someone on the other side of the world had posted a piece in their blog titled "Serendipity" - on 2nd January 2008, the same day as mine!

*As William McKeene said:

"We must allow ourselves to be surprised. We must relearn how to be human, to start again as we did as children - learning through awkward and bungling discovery. Otherwise, when it's all over and we face the Distinguished Thing, we will have led extremely efficient but monstrously dull lives."

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