6th May 2023

It took a while, but I’ve found the answer.

Jaundice, I’d decided. I must have jaundice to be seeing such a yellow world.

No. It’s all those dandelions.

The world is yellow.


When they turn to seed, the world will be white again. God help anyone who is allergic.

There have always been lots of dandelions but this year it looks like a bumper crop.

This is not a complaint.


When I first found myself responsible for a garden I was misguided enough to believe I ought to make an effort to have a respectable “lawn.” Who was I kidding!

Dandelions were the least of my problems.

And I soon learned to love them.


Early attempts to make me a gardener:

Mud pies. I was good at that.


In fact my mother never attempted to teach me anything that I can remember.

She was a good cook, a great gardener and a brilliant seamstress. She could knit and crochet and she could fix the plumbing too.

The only one of her skills I attempted was sewing which I preferred to do by hand. I had lessons at school.


There were times when I attempted to help Mum in the kitchen but she always ended up saying “let me do it!”

During the war, Mum ran a boarding house in London which must have kept her busy around the clock.

Maybe that is why she had so little patience.


The way I interpreted it was that she believed I was hopeless.

She had wanted a pretty little girl that she could dress in frills. Who would play with dolls.

Dolls were not for me. I wanted toy animals.

Once, Mum put my hair in curls which I promptly washed out by putting my head under a tap.


How many of our beliefs about ourselves, or about what we think others believe about us, are based on totally imaginary ideas?

If there were any family secrets, my parents kept them till the end. It was not a matter of secrets, it was more things unsaid.

Not to be discussed.


Often I find myself wondering why I didn’t ask questions, about so many things.

It was partly that I felt it would be intrusive, that certain things were none of my business.

More and more though, I see that the majority of problems are caused by lack of communication, total misunderstanding.


If we cannot communicate within our own families, how do we have a hope as societies?

Ironically, it is because I am so bad at verbal communication myself, that I have spent so much time watching and listening.

At an early age I wondered why people behaved so differently, depending on who it was we were visiting or entertaining.


With one set of relatives or friends, this was OK, but with another lot, a different sort of behaviour was required.

Then, at home, there was always discussion about whoever it was we had just seen.

Maybe we were just nasty people, I thought.


Then when I was 8 we went to Cambodia.

Sometimes Mum and I went with Dad on trips to villages in the hinterland. Speaking not a word of Khmer, I could only observe.

It was so different to what I knew.

Back then many of the people we met had never seen a white child before.

Fresh from England, I was very white.


Women came up to touch my arm as if they thought I wasn’t real. I must have looked very strange.

While my parents did whatever was required that day, I watched the goings on in the village and saw children my own age carrying around younger ones on their hip. They all seemed to look after each other.

And I remember thinking that they were the same as me, but not.


It seemed that my father’s job was part of an effort to improve life for those people.

My father made audio-visual arts and the idea was to teach better agricultural practices as well as healthier sanitation and so forth.

My father’s so-called Chief of Mission (pictured here) had been in Indochina for many years and was more at home in the villages than in town.


He came back one day from a long trip up in the mountains, dragging with him a young lad who he had dressed in shorts and a tee-shirt.

Why? The boy was from a hill tribe and I doubt he spoke Khmer. I was only 9 but I remember feeling this was wrong.

What about the boy’s family?

The young man was been given a uniform and sent to work as a waiter at the airport.

It was cruel.

It is something I never forgot and it made me begin think about how people get mistreated and used.

What would this lad have said to us if we had had a common language?

Or would he have been afraid?

No-one could have guessed then, the horror all these young Cambodians were going to get caught up in.

Kids just like me. Why?

12 thoughts on “Why?

  1. Are you the little girl in that picture – how cute! You’re absolutely right Carolyn … if we don’t talk to each other, we don’t necessarily know what the other is thinking (and then we make all kinds of assumptions). I think sometimes we try to help others by letting them live/dress/eat like us (as your father did) … I believe it’s with good intent, but not always necessarily what is desired.

  2. Thank you, Carolyn, for the excellent post, with so many interesting details.
    As to your question “Why?,” there is only one reply, it is because we are here alone and only a human can help another in need.


    1. Yes. When we heard about the atrocities in Cambodia, I remembered so many sweet faces as well as girls I had been at school with. The Cambodian people were gentle and kind. It was hard to comprehend.

      1. I have only been there long after the Khmer Rouge fell and the stark reminders of those dark days still hang heavy there and still remain hard to comprehend!

  3. I have never quite worked out why an Englishman and his family were doing in Cambodia at a time when its influence was predominantly French, and American. I may have missed a post explaining that.
    Colonialism has a great deal to answer for, even today. No doubt about that.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. My dad was an artist and photographer. He wanted a job somewhere warm so he applied for a job with UNESCO and they needed an audio-visual aids expert. He was led to believe he was headed for Mexico so began learning Spanish only to find out with not a lot of notice that he needed to learn French for Indochina. I think he must have known some to begin with. That is indeed where I met Americans first. I actually went to the American school for a few months. Didn’t go back after so became a street urchin for many months till my parents go nervous about me growing up uneducated. THEN they sent me to the Lycee which they should have done to start, of course. My Cambodia stories are back in my 2019-20 posts.

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