This story was inspired by the following word prompts:
Today’s things are: orange grove, bee, Jack Frost
A Moment In Paradise
“What could be a lovelier setting than a beautiful orange grove?” That’s what my Mother said to me the day we arrived in Downham Springs.
It was her way of consoling me. I was only Nine years old and I still missed England. My brother was only Five and seemed to have coped much better with the journey than I had. Two months on board a boat had not been very pleasant. We were crammed in with lots of other families that had taken the ten pound package. The weather as we sailed round the horn of Africa had been terrible. The crew kept reassuring us that it was perfectly normal but my stomach was having none of it. I realised that Boats and my stomach were just not compatible. The best thing about the journey was all the food that was available. When we’d left England, rationing was still in full swing. My mother thought it was so funny when my Brother and I were introduced to bananas for the first time. She just stood there laughing as we tried to bite through the skin. Then she showed us how to peel them. She said she used to love them before the war. It wasn’t just bananas but also juicy oranges, melons and pineapples. Actually, if it hadn’t been for the rough sea and my poor sea legs it wouldn’t have been a bad journey after all.
I will never forget the day we sailed into Sydney harbour. It was like sailing into paradise.
My mother hated the cold and she kept saying to us how we’d left behind that ‘Land of Jack Frost’ which she referred to England as. I remember a few bad winters but my Mum was full of tales of having to break the ice on the wash water every morning. They didn’t have heating, only a small fire that they used to take from hearth to hearth on a shovel as they could only afford to have one fire lit at any one time.
“This is going to be heaven” Mother would reassure us.
The farmstead was a day’s ride out of Sydney the other side of the Blue mountains. My Mum’s cousin worked there as the manager and had got her a job as cook/housekeeper. Not only did it provide us with a new home but she got a decent wage, something we hadn’t had since Dad died. As well as the beautiful orange grove, it was a sheep ranch. I had never seen so many sheep in all my life. I couldn’t wait to explore and play in the creeks and gullies. Only when we arrived they had not expected us at all. Mother of course was expected but somehow no one had mentioned that she had two boys.
I remember the lady of the house, dressed severely in black had looked at us rather like we were monkeys or rats rather than children.
My Mother argued that we were very well-behaved and would not even be noticed.
The woman, Mrs Macaulay, would have none of it. It seemed that we were not going to be allowed to live in paradise at all.
I looked out at that orange grove and took in that smell. I saw a bee flying into each flower gathering nectar. I envied the bee that it would be allowed to live in paradise but we weren’t.
My Mother talked to me like I was an adult. She explained how difficult it was to get a job in a new country. How good the pay was and how we needed to make sacrifices. I knew what the sacrifice was going to be, Me and little Georgie.
It was arranged that we could stay in paradise for a few days then we were sent to a boarding school in Sydney ran by Nuns. Mother said how she was Loath to let us go, but it would only be for a short time.
It was my first experience of Nuns and it introduced me to the word hypocrisy. Nuns considered themselves to be married to Jesus and therefore closer to God than us ordinary folk, and that somehow gave them the right to bully and torture the children in their care.
It was supposed to have only been for a short while. Mother was going to try to argue for us to come and live with her in paradise, or after she’d saved enough money she was going to come and get us.
Somehow that day never dawned. Georgie and I were on our own.
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 07/08/2018