Two years ago, Christmas was over and we were belatedly but seriously getting down to packing for our six weeks away in Tasmania and Australia. My husband had been to Australia before, but I hadn’t – the farthest I had been was to Singapore, many years ago, to visit a penfriend I’d had since was about twelve. We were off to Tasmania because I was fascinated by the place; my great-grandfather, Louis had been born there and lived there until he was about thirty. His parents had come to the island to become the owners of what was effectively an import/export business. They had several ships and sent cargoes of whale oil, wool, and other products across the world, and imported wine, porcelain, fine goods from Europe and Asia. I believe their ships also went back and forth to California, certainly they criss-crossed the pacific and the South China Seas.
I wanted to visit the site of Boa Vista, the magnificent mansion my great-grandparents owned, to visit the synagogue they were instrumental in founding, contributing to the expenses of, and participating in every aspect of what happened there. I wanted to go down by the harbour and see where they had warehouses, find the site of their business premises, now built over, and try to get to know the island which had played such an important part in our family history.
I was not anxious about the travel, I knew all would go well, but would I be disappointed when I got there? I would have a wonderful holiday, I knew, but this was more than a holiday.
We arrived at Hobart Airport and I stepped off the plane and breathed in and had the most curious sensation. You know what it’s like when you’ve been away from home and you step through your front door and breathe in and know you’re home? That is exactly how I felt! It must have been my over-excited imagination but I genuinely was overwhelmed with a sense of familiarity – not at anything I saw – which I had seen on many photos before we left home, but the smell… it was… familiar.
We had the most wonderful and memorable holiday. We did travel around in those five weeks, we did visit different places, but many days we just spent wandering around Hobart on foot, just wandering. We found the site of Boa Vista – the mansion has gone but the gate-house remains, we visited the synagogue and received a most warm welcome – and how wonderful it was to see my family’s names on the wooden boards on the walls. We walked by the warehouses, we walked all around the harbour, we went everywhere Louis might have gone – if those places still existed.
When I left I was very sad, but looking forward to meeting dear friends in Australia. We had a week in Brisbane and then flew home to dear old Blighty, leaving in sweltering sun and arriving with snow on the ground. It was wonderful to be back and see the children and the family and our friends, and to tell them about our adventures. We resumed our usual routines and activities and life returned to normal even though Tasmania stayed in my mind – and in my heart.
As it comes up to the time when we left Heathrow two years ago, my feeling of homesickness increases… and yet how can I be homesick for a place which isn’t my home? My dad was a scientist, a very practical man, and yet he believed in genetic memory… I wish I had asked him what genetic memories he thought he had, I wonder if Tasmania is somehow imprinted in my genes? I don’t actually think it is, I think I just had such a wonderful time there that I want to go back, revisit where we went and explore where we didn’t! If I become rich and famous (ha-ha!) guess the destination of the first air ticket I buy!