My first experiences of the dramas of going to sea were from a TV program called The Onedin Line – even the theme tune captured well the sound of the sighing waves, as they are rising up and down, carrying that ship with the wind in its sails out into the oceans to climes unknown.
As we came into Bristol, on the way down to Pembrokeshire in Wales (where a lot of the final series of The Onedin Line was set), I saw the tops of the tall ships’ sails there and was reminded of this as well as other very personal memories of leaving home and heading somewhere – perhaps never to return or not knowing where I would return to (as one thing I did know, even then, was that it was likely to be something of a Homeric journey for me).
Certainly, it is with great sadness that a sea-faring folk song is one that summed up how it was leaving my mother behind in New Zealand back in 1990 – with the intention to come to England. However I did not realise how poignantly tragic that the lyrics of that song would be for me.
For it was indeed the last farewell, as echoed in that song sung best by Roger Whittaker, which I was reminded of when hearing from my older sister that my mother had contracted multiple myelloma, a vicious form of cancer of the blood. By mid-1991 it had left her starved of oxygen and, as she was diagnosed as having only a few months to live, I had to make up my mind whether I would return home to see her after I had ended my first travels here, or stay on while there was still time left on my visa (but with the risk that I would never be able to return at all if I did go back).
Certainly, my Mum – God Bless Her – had told my sister that she did not just want me coming back for her, as she knew that it was then perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me – but it was fairly definite about how long she had left to live, as well as clear that nothing could be done at all to slow or stop that wicked illness.
I think it was the combination of how I had sent the stories back home that I am now trying to write about, amongst others, in these blogs as well as that sea-faring song, along with memories of that TV show, that made me decide that it was too much to simply leave that goodbye in 1990 as “fare well”.
However, it was the “Last Farewell“, a song that we used to sing in the car when we went away on holidays somewhere, that now means so much more to me now in reminding me of that time and first journey down to Bristol – before I knew anything at all about her being ill. Now it’s like that song sums up leaving home on a lifetime of travel and work in different places – and how “home”, now, is where the heart is.
Anyway, this blog is for you, Mum, wherever you are now – but maybe I will understand and remember more clearly now about “home”, from taking these trails again that I took when you were still alive twenty years ago, as well as what or how much more there is than that at the end of the day. Certainly my ship is rigged and ready, as is my compass set for finding home again….