GRAHAM CARTER: It takes colonial cousins to remind us how lucky we are

Graham Carter - the voice of age and experience

Graham Carter - the voice of age and experience

First published in Opinion by

THIS week’s column has been made possible by a twist of fate that happened in 1882. It’s all to do with my great great grandfather, who was born in 1831, lived in Upper Stratton and went by the impressive name of Adolphus Adams (not many people can say they have an Adolphus in their family).

Old Adolphus had lots of children, but two are of particular interest to me. One, called Kate, is interesting because she was my great grandmother, and if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here. She eventually did what most sensible people do, and married a Carter, namely my great grandfather, Albert John.

But if she had followed her older brother John’s lead, things would have turned out quite differently, and I would be writing this for the Sydney Morning Herald.

That’s because John emigrated to Australia in 1882, where he got a job in a mental hospital, married an Irishwoman – there must have been a shortage of Carters Down Under – and got down to the serious business of founding a whole new branch of the Adams family in Sydney.

Now one of them, Stephen, who is my third cousin, and his wife Jude are back in the motherland, on holiday. Their life is a long way from Swindon, in many respects. Both retired teachers, they have a house in Sydney, a farm in the Hunter Valley, and Stephen likes to watch cricket at the SCG, including last winter’s Ashes, when he found himself cheering for Australia, which is most unfortunate.

Otherwise it seems that family traits prevail, whether you are descended from the one who stayed in Stratton, 132 years ago, or the one who got a ticket to ride.

We found we share a love of The Beatles and all kinds of history, and a deep sense of blood being thicker than water.

And there is a gene that is common to both sides of the family, which is to pack as much as is humanly possible into our holidays. Never let it be said that descendants of Adolphus Adams waste their time sitting on beaches.

My holiday itinerary is always organised so that, no matter where we go, our feet hardly touch the ground, but if I thought I had it bad, then Stephen and Jude have it even worse.

During their six-week visit, the places they have been to (or will be going to) include Northern Ireland, Yorkshire, Cardiff, Oxford, Hereford, Worcester, Lincolnshire, Great Snoring and other parts of Norfolk, Northumberland and even Skye, which was the limit up north. Down south they ticked off Bath and Wells in a day, plus Greenwich, Leeds Castle and Canterbury in another.

I have been to a lot of places in the UK, but it has taken a lifetime, whereas they’ve done them in the blink of an eye.

And there is a moral in all this.

We gave them a grand guided tour of all the local places with family connections, including Stratton, Stanton, Lydiard Tregoze, Wanborough, Marlborough, Highworth and Sevenhampton, plus others with more general interest, such as Avebury and Silbury Hill.

But it wasn’t until we saw their awe at the places we took them to that we realised how lucky we are.

We live in a beautiful county, with charming towns and villages, and some stunning history and pre-history, yet it takes colonial cousins from the other side of the world, who have a wonderful life of their own, to remind us how lucky we are, too.

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