Saturday 30 April 2022

The Bamboo Bracelet by Merilyn Brason

This is the moving experience of one woman who lived in an internment camp for much of the duration of World War II .This story is told by her daughter, who was actually conceived during the internment.

Merilyn Brason has enjoyed a multicultural life having lived in China, Nigeria and Australia. She has experience of radio journalism and she is a retired psychotherapist.

We are left with the impression that she is well qualified to write this book  that is based on her mother’s memories and notes.   

We gain valuable insight in this work to what it was like in an internment camps. These are different from POW camps and the Nazi organised concentration camps: there is some mingling of men and women. Protagonist Ronny and her husband Pat, along with their good friend Reg enjoyed living in “shanty” home.

A whole village or even town exists within the camp. There are shops, cafes and even a barber’s. Our protagonist even manages to gain an income by sewing garments for the richer people in the camp.

We know all along that Ronny will survive because her daughter is here to tell the tale. Yet we are gripped throughout.

This story is extremely well told.   

Wednesday 20 April 2022

Sending asylum seekers to Rwanda?

 Boat, Water, Refugee, Escape, Asylum, Politically

My gut reaction to this is to say it is abhorrent.

I was taught at an early age to look for the counter argument to anything I was sure I was right about. Good journalists do this anyway, don’t they?

So I try to understand why some people think this is all right. And then offer the counter argument to that.  

A major point seems to be – why do they want to come to the UK? Why won’t they go to other parts of Europe and why won’t other parts of Europe have them?  In fact, other countries have taken in far more refugees than we have. English may have something to do with it. More people speak English so getting asylum in an English-speaking country is more appealing.

Patel wants so stop the “evil” boat trade. Sure, the people who offer these migrants the services are asking for a lot of money for a poor service. There is criminal neglect. Even so, so desperate are these people to get away from the regime that have felt  that it is worth it to them  We would do well to remember that people who dare to make these journeys are brave and creative and will eventually be an asset to us.

We’re running out of room (Lebensraum? Now where have I heard that before?) Rwanda has plenty. Well, despite the fact that it’s a bit cosy here in places we’re not actually running out of room.  Why Rwanda? Lots of other African states have lots of room as well. Why send then to a state that hasn’t behaved all that well in the past. Even if we pick another African state, though, what does it say about our attitude?

It’s only the illegal immigrants we want to send there for processing, How do we know they’re “illegal” before we’ve decided whether  to give them asylum or not; a soon  as we decided  to give them asylum they become legal.  By the way it is not illegal to seek asylum.      

Australia has done the same. Except that it’s ending it now. It was used for processing those who arrived by boat. The argument was that it was to prevent deaths by boat travel.  Two problems here: they’ve already done the life-threatening travel by boat by the time they’re processed. There is an implication that processing them remotely is a punishment rather than an answer to a logistics problem.

Some added concerns

Rwanda, given its history, is not a good choice.

Even the Nazis refrained in the end from sending Jews to Madagascar.

There is world-wide perception including from the UN that we are acting illegally in this.        


My reasoned reaction to this is to say that it is extremely abhorrent


Thursday 7 April 2022

The Bamboo Bracelet by Merilyn Brason


I attended a very interesting talk last week with the National Women’s Register. Merilyn Brason has written her mother’s story about her time in a prisoner of war camp. Her mother, Ronny Rynd, was holidaying in the Baugio   region in the mountains while her husband was still in Manila when Pearl Harbour happened. 

Rynd was pregnant with her older daughter at the time. This daughter is born in the camp. Brason was actually conceived in the camp.

Rynd‘s first camp is more benign that the one where she eventually resides.  She fights the authorities to be allowed to join her husband at the overcrowded Manila camp.

How do these camps compare with the ones the Nazis created?  They seem as cruel and the human spirit overcomes as well here, A whole society develops and I’m reminded of what happens when Clara in Clara’s Story is Theresienstadt. It does seem though that it was easier for men and women to mix here than it was in the German-built camps.

Brason relies on her mother’s letters and notes and also remembers the anecdotes her mother told her family. Rynd always wanted her story to be told but couldn’t seem to marshal her material into a coherent shape. Rynd has done that.

I asked her a little about the process.  Did she have to leave out some material? No, in fact she had to do more research in order to complete the story. I wasn’t able to check but I suspect she used those three writer’s tools that I have discussed often:

  1. Primary resources
  2. Repeated experience
  3. Writer’s imagination

There is one big difference between me and Brason. I am a writer and I was pleased to find my material in order to be able to write this cycle of books. Brason doesn’t see herself as a writer but was confronted with this material and felt obliged to write the story.

We have in common that we are telling the story of someone who no longer has the voice to tell their own story.  We also have both found some rich primary resources. We make our work readable by using techniques employed in fiction.   

I have to confess to not having read the book yet but it is on order. I shall do another review of it once I have read it.