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Whe' yu' from?

Hudson, Brian (2010) Whe' yu' from? Garliford Publishing, Brisbane.

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Abstract

"Whe' yu' from?" The question was put to me as I wandered, camera in hand, in the old square of Spanish Town, Jamaica's former capital. The local man, lounging in the shade of one of the colonial Georgian buildings that enclose the square, was mildly curious about what he took to be a typical white tourish photgraphing the sights of the decayed historic town. At that time, my home was in Kingston where i lived with my wife and baby son. I was then working in the Jamaican Government Town Planning Department in a job that took me all over the island. Turning to my questioner, I replied, "Kingston". There was a brief pause, and then the man spoke again: "No Man! Whe' yu' really from?"

I still have difficulties when asked this question. Where am I from? What does this question mean? Does it refer to where I was born, where I spent my previous life or where I live now? Does it have a broader meaning, an enquiry about my origins in terms of background and previous experience? The following chapters are my attempt to answer these questions for my own satisfaction and, I hope, for the amusement of others who may be interested in the life of an ordinary English boy whose dream to travel and see the world was realized in ways he could not possibly have imagined.

Finding an appropriate title for this book was difficult. Thursday's Child, North and South and War and Peace all came to mind but, unfortunately for me, those titles had been appropriated by other writers.

Thursdays's Child is quite a popular book title, presumably because people who were born on that day and, in the words of the nursery rhyme, had 'far to go', are especially likely to have travellers' tales to tell or life stories of the rags-to-riches variety. Born on a Thursday, I have travelled a lot and I suppose that I have gone far in life. Coming from a working class family, I 'got on' by 'getting a good education' and a 'good job'. I decided against adding to the list of Thursday's Children.

North and South would have reflected my life in Britain, spent in both the North and South of England, and my later years, divided between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres of the globe, as well as in countries commonly referred to as the 'advanced' North and the 'underdeveloped' South. North and South has already been appropriated by Mrs Gaskell, something that did not deter one popular American writer from using the title for a book of his.

My memories of World War Two and the years afterwards made War and Peace a possible candidate, but readers expectnig an epic tale of Tolstoyan proportions may have been disappointed. To my knowledge, no other book has the title "Whe' Yu' From?". I am grateful to the Jamaican man whose question lingered in my memory and provided the title of this memoir, written decades later.

This book is a word picture. It is, in a sense, a self-portrait, and like all portraits, it captures something of the character, it attempts to tell the truth, but it is not the whole truth. This is because it is not my intention to write my entire life story; rather I wish to tell about some of the things in my experience of life that have seemed important or interesting to me.

Unlike a painted portrait, the picture I have created is intended to suggest the passage of time. While, for most of us in Western society, time is linear and unidirectional, like the flight of an arrov or the trajectory of a bullet, memory rearranges things, calling up images of the past in no particular order, making connections that may link events in various patterns, circular, web-like, superimposed.

The stream of consciousness is very unlike that of streams we encounter in the physical world. Connections are made in all directions; thoughts hop back and forth in time and space, from topic to topic. My book is a composition drawn from periods, events and thoughts as I remember them. Like life itself, it is made up of patches, some good, some bad, but in my experience, always fascinating.

In recording my memories, I have been as accurate as possible. Little of what I have written is about spectacular sights and strange customs. Much of it focuses on my more modest explorations includng observations of everyday things that have attracted my attention.

Reading through the chapters, I am struck by my childhood freedom to roam and engage in 'dangerous' activities like climbing trees and playing beside streams, things that many children today are no longer allowed to enjoy. Also noticeable is the survival of traditions and superstitions from the distant past.

Obvious too, is my preoccupation with place names, both official ones that appear on maps and sign boards and those used by locals and children, names rarely seen in print. If there is any uniting theme to be found in what I have written, it must be my education in the fields, woods and streets of my English homeland, in the various other countries in which I have lived and travelled, as well as more formally from books and in classrooms.

Much of my book is concerned with people and places. Many of the people I mention are among those who have been, and often have remained, important and close to me. Others I remember from only the briefest of encounters, but they remain in my memory because of some specific incident or circumstance that fixed a lasting image in my mind.

Some of my closest friends and relatives, however, appear nowhere in these pages or they receive only the slightest mention. This is not because they played an unimportant roles in my life. It is because this book is not the whole story. Among those whe receive little or no mention are some who are especially close to me, with whom I have shared happy and sad times and who have shown me and my family much kindness, giving support when this was needed. Some I have known since childhood and have popped up at various times in my life, often in different parts of the world. Although years may pass without me seeing them, in an important sense they are always with me. These people know who they are. I hope that they know how much I love and appreciate them.

When writing my memoir, I consulted a few of the people mentioned in this book, but in the main, I have relied on my own memory, asided by daiary and notebook entries and old correspondence. In the preparation of this manuscript, I benefited greatly from the expert advice and encouragement of Neil Marr of BeWrite Books. My wife Anne, inspiration for this book, also contributed in the valuable role of critic. She has my undying gratitude.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 53333
Item Type: Book
ISBN: 9780980877311
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > URBAN AND REGIONAL PLANNING (120500) > Land Use and Environmental Planning (120504)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Civil Engineering & Built Environment
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2011 The author.
Deposited On: 28 Aug 2012 08:10
Last Modified: 06 Aug 2013 15:37

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