A Time To Travel
Scotland and New Zealand
How could Shakespeare possibly have known all those centuries ago of the bitter sweet sorrow I was experiencing as I waved my almost eighteen year old daughter off on the next stage of her life’s journey? Like many other girls of her age she was deferring the opportunity of study and opting for a year of adventure, to which I would be absolutely no party; after all we all know that teenagers live by the need-to-know concept when it comes to communicating with parents. Hugging her with tears welling up and my throat tightening I was transported back 25 years to a time when I was nearly nineteen and heading off to New Zealand on my own adventures.
Never had so little thought and planning been involved as there was with my trip, I wanted to ski all year round so I was heading to the southern hemisphere, following the snow like some demented artic hare who couldn’t get enough of the cold stuff. Her planning, on the other hand, has been an all consuming project with each potential logistical problem being anticipated and subsequently dissipated. Was travel much simpler then or has time just dulled my memory more than I dare admit? I didn’t have a dinky little yellow GPS gadget tucked away in my backpack for emergency rescues – computers were cumbersome objects in the late 70’s and certainly would not have fitted into my pack. My parents had to make do with the odd postcard, and if they were lucky a very rare aerogramme letter, whereas I can look forward to quick blasts from her tri-band mobile phone or indulge in the luxury of an email address which can be accessed by her from any cybernet café in the world; and while my luggage consisted of my skis, boots and a change of knickers I needed the aid of a forklift to put her bag into the boot of the car. I do remember the hassle of withdrawing the £450 necessary for my return ticket though, as my parents were still in control of my Building Society Account.
So with my ticket, passport and the sum total of £50 secreted on my person I knew the world was my oyster. But in reality I was painfully shy and hadn’t come across the expression “streetwise” before never mind exhibiting it. I was too scared even to ask the BA steward for a soft drink on the 27 hour flight to Auckland, in case I couldn’t afford it. I was also painfully aware of my distinctly Scottish accent, which had exposed me to constant teasing as a schoolgirl, due to its diluted quality derived from the transient nature of my family life. But I was soon to capitalise on what was to become my most treasured asset as my clearly spoken twang was not in fact a liability and nothing to be ashamed of, but it opened a whole host of doors for me, as I found that Scots abroad were made to feel at home among the third generation of Scots living in New Zealand. People used to engage me in allsorts of weird conversations just to hear the accent – I don’t think this is quite what my mum had in mind when she told me I’d be fine coz, “you’ve got a gid Scot’s tongue in your heid”, but it worked for me.
I’m quite sure that it was my Scottishness which secured my employment as the custodian of a University Ski Club lodge in Arthur’s Pass, west of Christchurch, but it was also this characteristic which nearly had me deported before the end of the ski season. The University were so proud of their cosmopolitan team that they issued a press release announcing the cultural diversity of the staff on the hill; apart from myself and the indigenous Kiwi crew there were two American ski instructors and a Canadian working out the winter. I, of course, was only in possession of a tourist visa and so when immigration read the article they were on my trail. As there were no chairlifts in this rather remote, but breathtakingly stunning resort, the only way to make contact with me was to cut a track through freshly fallen knee deep snow, before reaching the lodge which was perched above the clouds 4,000 feet up the mountain. By the time the men in suits did scale the heights I just so happened to be on a glacier trip for a few days and so managed to elude them long enough to travel the length and breadth of the country; fall in love and depart at the end of my allotted time, with dignity.
I have no doubt at all that Kim, my courageously careful daughter, will stumble into numerous situations which, like me, she will not divulge to her parents. As a parent this should be a time of great anxiety and trepidation but I live in hope that the subliminal lessons I have instilled in her over the short time she has been walking this earth, will keep her as safe as the cotton wool I tried not to wrap her in when she was still so much younger. I would like to think that she will carry all the new experiences with her, tucked away in a warm place in her heart, where they will help her to grow and mature into the confident and happy adult she deserves to be, and where they will be easily accessed when she too acquires a few grey hairs and finds herself involuntarily transported back in time.