"A great source of calamity lies in regret and anticipation; therefore a person is wise who thinks of the present alone, regardless of the past or future." - Oliver Goldsmith
I am finding myself living dual lives at the moment. One is the workaday world of the present, where I commute to work, where I live within a family group of three generations, and am happy to be travelling this path through life at the moment.
My other life is immersed in the past. My China story is taking shape, and my characters have all of a sudden sprung to life. I can hear my Nana's voice, see her smile, feel her papery thin skin that used to dangle from her arms. I remember touching this soft, soft skin and loving it's warmth and silkiness, and remember being surprised when my Nana got slightly annoyed by the attention I gave it. I am infatuated, once again, by my Nana, more than forty years since she died. She was a big part of my childhood, living with us, playing with us, telling us about her life in China and how she lost the love of her life in such a tragic way.
I did not intend to start writing yet, as I still have so much research to do, but I just cannot help myself. When I am at work, my mind keeps pulling me away from my tasks to hear my Nana's voice and urging me to write down everything she is saying. I reluctantly have to resist and set my mind once again to what I have to do. So pleasurable does it feel to be so close to Nana that I would gladly give up sleep to keep writing her story.
Whilst I am enjoying the anticipation of writing, my Nana, in my book, is currently dealing with anticipation (and no doubt a little trepidation), as she is about to board a five thousand ton steamship and travel for many, many weeks to an exotic and foreign land. My Nana is made of stern stuff, she is a much stronger woman than I am, so she is determined to put the sadness of leaving her past happy life behind her, to not fret too much about what the future may hold, but to enjoy to the utmost, the present. I can just hear my Nana shouting to the wind and waves - "Bring it on!!". Her wide smile would be plastered across her lovely warm face. Bon Voyage, Nana.
About their voyage from Brisbane to China: The Brisbane Courier Shipping Lists told me that on Saturday 20th June 1914, my Grandmother, Gladys Houston, and my Aunty Anne (Anne Houston), left the Port of Brisbane on the KPM Line ship Tasman, bound for Batavia (now Jakarta), and from thence on to Hong Kong. I am yet to track down whether or not they stayed on the Tasman from Hong Kong to Shanghai. The newspaper shows that the ship had travelled from Sydney to Brisbane and was steered by Captain Lucardie.
The Tasman was 5023 tons - relatively small when compared with the likes of the Orient Line ships which were three or four times the size and were luxury liners. My research shows that the Tasman that my ladies sailed on was version number 2 and built in 1913 by Earle's Shipbuilding Engineering Company Ltd., Hull, England. In 1918 it was confiscated by the British Government, torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U46 in the Atlantic Ocean.
So, it was a brand new steam ship with a buff funnel with a black stripe around the top. I am still searching for a photo of it but have managed to find some interior photos of a very glamourous sister ship, the Niew Holland which was about 12,000 tons and luxury in the extreme (and more than twice the size of the Tasman. I also discovered that any passenger ships leaving ports (particularly in Sydney) were sent off in gala style, with brass and pipe bands and masses of coloured paper streamers linked between ship and shore. Remember, there were no aeroplanes yet, only sea travel.