By Erle Montaigue
Friday, 06 April 2007 (Good Friday UK)
I was born in Sydney by Caesarean section some 58 years ago 4 weeks premature and only 4 lbs at birth. They said that I would be backward and stunted in my growth. Many would say that is still so, but my Mother didn't, and took me back to the main nurse who said all of that when I was 15 to show her that she was wrong.
I lived in London for a few years from the early seventies and tried to lose my Aussie accent because back then (and now to a degree) it was taboo to have that voice. I literally grew up here in London. Well not really physically but mentally, I grew up as I had to in order to survive. I remember walking from Wilesden Green to London in order to find a job because I had no money at all and was too proud to go onto the dole. Many jobs later, I moved back to Australia when my Father died for which I had a premonition of a most assertive nature.
Well, now I am back in the UK with my family and dogs and business. Back in the land of my genes and culture. And it is good to finally have a Christmas that was drummed into us at school way back then, where it snows and is cold and holly grows and just about everything else that we learnt was with reference to the Northern Hemisphere. So I am comfortable living here in the UK as I was brought up on this culture. I mean who wants to spend Christmas with a steaming hot turkey or chicken and roast potatoes with steaming hot plum puddings when it is 40 degrees!
Although I love living in the UK, I will always be an Aussie. Often I will sit at my desk (as I am now) and I can smell the Aussie sun at a shopping mall called “Pacific Fair”, or I can smell that distinctive aroma when the rains come after a stinking hot day and there is steam rising form the pavements and roads and the trees give off a wonderful aroma as well. I can feel the storms coming, real storms where the trees are leaning over at 45 degrees and the rain is coming down in buckets. Then the sun comes out and everything is calm again. Often we would all train (in tai chi or Bagua etc) out in the open on one of our farms and it would rain. We would not bother to move indoors as it was so hot anyway and soon we would all be dry again. I love the Aussie trees which are so different to the Northern Hemi, and of course the animals, many of which used to traverse across our farms in groups. And of course the parrots and other birds, the calls of which are like nothing else in the world. Sure we have beautiful black bird sounds here in the UK and Aussie birds tend to make noises rather than singing, but those sounds are really special to me, like the Aussie magpie which is not like the European magpie, just that it is black and white, which makes such a unique sound like a warble coming from the back of the throat, or the Willy Wag-tail whose many different voices make one listen in wonderment.
I learnt to communicate with many of the Aussie birds as I have always been a good whistler, something that I inherited from my Mother. Often while holding a class for 50 students, I would be communicating with a lone Willy wag-tail up in the nearby trees and he would sing back to me, changing his tune to try and trick me or to find out if I really WAS another Willy. I remember having to leave out food for the kangaroos so that they wouldn't each the leaves off of our burgeoning orchard that we had just planted and that one became a battle of wits which proves that a kangaroo is smarter than I am because eventually I lost that battle and just let them have their own way.
I remember that when the temperature dropped below 15 degrees, it would be time to light the fire on a 'cold' winter's morning. Now, we say that it is a heat wave when the temperature gets to be over 10 degrees!
I was a bit of a surfer in my child hood days but my very fair Irish skin prevented me from being in the sun for too long and I attained the name of the “Great White Whale” from the other surf club members. And of course that is one thing that I do miss on a hot summer's day early in the morning or late afternoon while the temperature is still around 30 degrees but the sun is not as burning, to go for a swim in the Pacific ocean, the salt water cleaning out the passages and cleansing the whole body with mineral salts. We never minded about the occasional shark warning as it was par for the course on the Gold Coast beaches. I remember as a kid swimming out to the sand bar, over a very deep trough and looking down to see 20 or so small sharks on the bottom on the sand! I learnt how to swim really fast back then! On one such occasion my school friends were out doing some snorkelling and I noticed a very large “gummy Shark” that was washed up onto the sand dead. So I dragged that shark back into the water and pushed it out to where my friends were, and then gave it a shove so that it pushed into them. I swear that they walked on the water that day.
When I take my blood pressure and perhaps it is a little high, I can think of Australia and take in the smells and sounds as I relax and straight away my BP drops back to normal. The easy way of life with much less interference from the Government, being able to tell someone to F off without going to jail for it as this is an Aussie right of birth, being able to defend yourself and simply doing what you wish without thinking if it is illegal now or not is what makes Australia great.
I have diabetes and in retrospect probably have had it most of my life as I would get great thirst while walking the mile or so home from school. I would just go into someone's house and ask for a drink of water, or if it had been raining, I would bend down and drink some water from the ditch at the side of the road, something that nowadays here, you would be taking your own life into your hands. The crystal clear steams in the mountains where I was brought up and the bush, hiking, making huts from trees and branches etc, drinking water droplets from huge ferns in the early mornings because I was thirsty are all ingrained in my mind as part of my childhood. I and some friends would climb for hours up the steep mountains and over the top to where the army would hold exercises and we would catch rabbits (which are vermin in Australia) and give those to the army people in exchange for chocolates and other goodies. We would swing on forest vines from high up in the canopy of huge trees, way out over the water and drop in, never even thinking of any dangers. In all of those times, only one girl fell and broke her ankle and we had to carry her back to civilization for treatment.
As a teenager, I grew up free to be wild; I was expelled from school (and proud of it!) and had many loves. I pulled many pranks but never hurt anyone seriously. (Unless it was absolutely necessary). I met my first wife when I was very young and had two children. I met my 2nd wife and love of my life, Sandra when I was old enough to be married! I have three children to Sandra and these are some of the main things why I will always be an Aussie and love Australia. Not because I was born there but because, it's a great country to bring up children, open, big and mostly friendly. If someone thinks you are an arse, they will tell you so, but they will also tell you if they love you without hesitation as that is part of the Aussie way. And that's the way I am also because I am an Aussie. Some people do not like it, others love it, especially in my main business of martial/healing arts where one simply has to be up-front and tell it as it is. I have my detractors but that gets back to not having an Aussie accent when I was younger because you couldn't get anywhere if you did in this country. Nowadays, perhaps because I am old enough, I don't give a damn and that is also part of being an Aussie.
Now we all live in the UK and the experience has been too great to write about. Just as I did back then, my children now have grown up with their experiences in this country. Part of a larger population and culture that is more in keeping with what we were all brought up with has been a wonderful learning experience for my children as they have never been to a school; we have always home-schooled them. However, we all remain Aussies and rush to the TV whenever something from Australia comes on well maybe not Neighbours and Home and Away! My own heart always sinks whenever I see some Aussie bush and seaways and hear that Aussie twang, but I know that I must be where I am and perhaps I am too old now to even think about the huge move back to Australia with my children, dogs and business as we are ensconced now in this country. However, I know at some stage, perhaps when I am dead and gone, my children might want to move back with their partners and their own children to show them some of THEIR birth culture that is “Aussie”. Well, maybe I will go with them, in spirit. My own Father moved to his last house when he was 75 and re-built it from the bottom up, so you never know, it might have been the moving that kept him alive.
I will always be an Aussie.
Erle Montaigue is one of the leading martial/healing arts instructors and publishers/authors in the World. His 33 books and to date, 316 DVD titles sell world-wide. His family band "Moontagu" comprising of himself and his 3 children plus one other who is also a family member are now being seen regularly on UK MTV television. You can see the performance here which also includes their rather different rendition and explanation of Waltzing Matilda: http://www.ifilm.com/video/2832055
The web site for Moontagu is www.moontagu.org.uk while for the martial arts is; www.taijiworld.com
Ben Montaigue, Erle's son has written and performed the music score for a new short film from Israel which we are hoping will be chosen for Cannes this year. You can view it at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPVYIs_Anac