Flew down to Melbourne today, spotting where we went to the coastal headland with Paul and Micelle. I bought three books at the airport and got a good way through one on the flight, a fascinating history of flight, The Airplane, by Jay Spenser, sub-titled How Ideas Gave Us Wings. The other two books are: Tim Flannery’s Here on Earth, which Elaine plunged into, and Climate Wars, by Gwynne Dyer.
Haunted as we flew, though, in a plane chock-full with Japanese tourists, by the story I read in a book I picked up in the airport bookstore, an account of what happened to a group of Australian nurses who fell into Japanese hands after the fall of Singapore.
On Radji Beach tells of the dreadful events that followed the attempted surrender of the survivors of a ship that was bombed as it fled Singapore. The Europeans were separated out and marched into the sea, where they – and 21 nurses – were machine-gunned to death. Miraculously, one nurse survived to tell the tale, after surrendering again, this time more successfully, and spending the rest of the war in a Japanese camp.
One wonders if these present-day Japanese travellers have any clue of what their country did before and during WWII? But then I wonder whether Australians recall how the Aborigines were hunted down like foxes, or young Britons remember things like the Opium Wars?
Always think that I prefer Melbourne, but temperature here is significantly lower, rain has been falling and our room at the Stamford Plaza is dark and rather noisy. Still, we found a wonderful restaurant on the other side of the river, Pure South, and had a tremendous meal – immeasurably enhanced, for me at least, by the smell of the recently trimmed box hedge smack alongside where we were sitting, one of my favourite aromas. The InVivo sauvignon blanc from New Zealand was rather nice, too.