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Wednesday, 20 November 2013

'Mr Pip' Tip, Bougainville, and the Olympia Traveller De Luxe Portable Typewriter



Four months after the rescue of John F.Kennedy in the Solomons in August 1943, TIME-LIFE war correspondent Bill Chickering covered the landing of US troops on Bougainville from the bridge of a landing craft.
One year and one week later (January 6, 1945) Californian William Henry Chickering, aged 28, was killed by enemy fire as he stood on the bridge of a warship in Lingayen Gulf. He left a four-year-old son, as well as a son born to his wife, Audrey Madden Chickering, after his death. Chickering had been with General MacArthur since 1942 in New Guinea. In 1941 he had written a book, Within the Sound of These Waves. If I had remembered I had this image, I would have written my typecast on a Royal portable typewriter, to honour Chickering.
JOHN F. KENNEDY and
the SOLOMON ISLANDS

On Friday the world will mourn the 50th anniversary of the assassination of US President John F.Kennedy. It is to be hoped that some may also pause to consider that without the aid of Solomon Islanders, and in particular Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana, Kennedy may not have been survived World War II, let alone become president.
Gasa and Kumana in their dugout, photographed by Elliott Erwitt in 1961.
Gasa and Kumana were the two exceedingly brave young men (20- and 18-years-old, respectively) who found and helped rescue Kennedy and his surviving PT-109 crew following the patrol boat's collision with the Japanese destroyer Amagiri near Plum Pudding Island in early August 1943. Gasa and Kumana patrolled the waters of the Solomon Sea near Gizo with Australian coastwatcher Sub-Lieutenant Arthur Reginald Evans, who manned a secret observation post at the top of Kolombangara Island's Mount Veve volcano. Evans had spotted the explosion caused by the PT-109 collision and later decoded news of the collision. Gasa and Kumana were dispatched by Evans to search in their dugout canoe for possible survivors. Kennedy and his men swam to tiny Olasana Island and survived on its coconuts and fresh water for six days before they were found by the two Solomon islanders. Gasa suggested that Kennedy inscribe a message on the husk of a coconut. The Solomon islanders rowed through 35 nautical miles of hostile waters patrolled by the Japanese to deliver the message to the nearest Allied base at Rendova.
Kennedy later invited Gasa and Kumana to attend his presidential inauguration in 1961, but the pair was duped en route in Honiara, the Solomon Islands capital, by British colonial officials who sent other representatives instead. Another scout, Alesasa Bisili, wrote of his sadness and anger over the unjust lack of recognition or award given to Solomon Islanders for their services during the war.
 Gasa with a bust of Kennedy in 2003
Gasa and family in the house built for them.
Kumana in 2002
However, in recognition of his help, Gasa lived in a house paid for by the Kennedy family, National Geographic and mainly by Australians Brian and Sue Mitchell. Brian Mitchell designed the house in co-operation with a Brisbane-based Australian architect. The Kennedys also constructed a house for Kumana. It fell down in the 2007 tsunami, but Kumana survived the storm. Gasa died, aged 82, on November 23, 2005, the day after the 42nd anniversary of Kennedy's assassination. 

Fourteen-year-old Bougainvillean actress Xzannjah, playing the lead female role of Matilda, runs away with the movie.
One more observant critic said Hugh Laurie as Mr Pip - "with his rumpled tropical suit and wide-eyed look of perpetual concern" -. "could be a character out of a Conrad novel. 
"But it's 1991 and he has been caught in the midst of a civil war in Bougainville, where he's trying to lighten the spirits of the village children with readings from Dickens' Great Expectations. This unlikely but beguiling idea was dreamed up by New Zealand novelist Lloyd Jones after he covered the conflict between Papua New Guinea and Bougainville over the closure of Rio Tinto's copper mine in the 1990s. And it gave him a prize-winning novel, which has done more to expose the sufferings that the war inflicted on Bougainville's people than all the reporting done at the time.

"The screenplay is by another New Zealander, Andrew Adamson, who directed Shrek and its sequel, and the first two films in The Chronicles of Narnia series. It doesn't dwell on the politics of the conflict, but the outlines are clear enough. In the tiny village of Pidia, the one white man, Mr Watts, stays on with his Bougainvillean wife, Grace (Florence Korokoro), who's stricken with acute depression. Xzannjah, a Bougainvillean schoolgirl, won the role after seeing the auditions advertised in a newspaper, and she proves to be a natural.

"The denouement, set in the future, grounds things once more with a poignancy that explains much about the enigmatic Mr Pip. He emerges in the end as an engaging, if accidental, hero, and it's clear that his lessons about the sustaining power of books will resonate with Matilda for the rest of her life. It's not a perfect film but it's not often you get one that sings literature's praises so eloquently, and that makes up for a lot."


QUOTES FROM MR PIP
“For six days I didn’t get up except to make a cup of tea, or fry an egg, or lie in the skinny bath gazing at a cracked ceiling. The days punished me with their slowness, piling up the hours on me, spreading their joylessness about the room. A doctor would have said I was suffering from depression. Everything I have read since suggests this was the case. But when you are in the grip of something like that it doesn’t usefully announce itself. No, what happens is you sit in a dark, dark cave, and you wait. If you are lucky there is a pinprick of light, and if you are especially lucky that pinprick will grow larger and larger, until one day the cave appears to slip behind, and just like that you find yourself in daylight and free. This is how it happened for me.” 

“I do not know what you are supposed to do with memories likes these. It feels wrong to want to forget. Perhaps this is why we write these things down, so we can move on.” 

“Dreams are nervy things—all it takes is for one stern word to be spoken in their direction and they shrivel up and die. ” 

“Thanks to dreams, in the history of the galaxy the world has been reinvented more often than there are stars.” 

“We have all lost our possessions and many of us our homes," he said. "But these losses, severe though they may seem, remind us of what no person can take, and that is our minds and our imaginations.” 

“I had found a new friend. The surprising thing is where I’d found him – not up a tree or sulking in the shade, or splashing around in one of the hill streams, but in a book. No one had told us kids to look there for a friend. Or that you could slip inside the skin of another. Or travel to another place with marshes, and where, to our ears, the bad people spoke like pirates. ” 

Lloyd Jones (born Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand, March 23, 1955), author of  one of my favourite books, The Book of Fame (2000):










6 comments:

Bill M said...

Thanks for another fine post. Too bad Gasa and Kumana did not get to attend President Kennedy's inauguration.

Richard P said...

Xzannjah has a wonderful face and looks so intense in that still from the film.

texbodemer said...

Hugh Laurie is one of my all-time favorite actors! I'm glad to see him getting movie work! (I loved A Bit of Fry and Laurie, House, etc.)

David Lawrence said...

What an amazing co-incidence, I came out of Harrods in Knightsbridge and noticed a blue austin 1100/1300 parked there and thought it odd for the area and the time, hopped on the underground train and arrived home in Wimbledon to the news of the bombing. It was later discovered the bomb was in the little austin...

David Lawrence said...

What an amazing co-incidence, I came out of Harrods in Knightsbridge and noticed a blue austin 1100/1300 parked there and thought it odd for the area and the time, hopped on the underground train and arrived home in Wimbledon to the news of the bombing. It was later discovered the bomb was in the little austin...

David Lawrence said...

What an amazing co-incidence, I came out of Harrods in Knightsbridge and noticed a blue austin 1100/1300 parked there and thought it odd for the area and the time, hopped on the underground train and arrived home in Wimbledon to the news of the bombing. It was later discovered the bomb was in the little austin...