How Australia made a drifter's life whole

BOOK: The Burden Within, by Christopher Thompson

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A LIFETIME'S JOURNEY: Christopher Thompson today and (right) between Alice Springs and Port Augusta in 1972.

A LIFETIME'S JOURNEY: Christopher Thompson today and (right) between Alice Springs and Port Augusta in 1972.

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From childhood trauma and a drifter's life to contentment, this is a memoir that inspires.

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Born into a wealthy household in England in 1942, Christopher Thompson could have expected a privileged life.

This was not to be. At six years old, Christopher entered boarding school, "the lost years of his childhood and youth".

Undiagnosed and debilitating dyslexia led to an aversion of schoolwork; and violent sexual abuse by an older fellow boarding student was the impetus for refusing to return to school at age 14.

Extremely shy, inept socially and emotionally and devoid of the most basic literary and numeric skills, Christopher embarked on a life of hard manual labour in rural England.

Returning to work on his parents' farm at 18 years old, continual frustrations led to an escalation of angry outbursts, culminating in a stint of involuntary commitment instigated by his parents.

In 1964, at 21 years old, he left for Australia as a "Ten Pound Pom". For the next 10 years Christopher roamed Australia - its cities, country towns and outback - seeing a side of it relatively few of us do.

A-ROVING HE DID GO: Christopher drifted around Australia three times between 1964 and 1973 after arriving as a "10-pound Pom".

A-ROVING HE DID GO: Christopher drifted around Australia three times between 1964 and 1973 after arriving as a "10-pound Pom".

His travels, adventures and the people he met made are tirelessly captured by black and white photographs and audiotapes recorded on his trusty reel-to-reel audio tape recorder that on many occasions was pawned to buy food.

However, Christopher, the adventurer, insidiously became a hardworking, hard-drinking, hard-playing drifter.

His book provides a deep insight into the tortuous journey of an insecure child and young man in England; a unique view through the lens of a newly arrived immigrant who drifted around Australia three times between 1964 and 1973; and the roller-coaster ride of recreating himself and becoming a valuable member of society, a husband and a father.

SEEING THE COUNTRY: Christopher at the Peko mine near Tennant Creek in 1971, where he worked maintaining equipment and welding.

SEEING THE COUNTRY: Christopher at the Peko mine near Tennant Creek in 1971, where he worked maintaining equipment and welding.

This is a simply told yet colourful and compelling story of a courageous man who found the strength to overcome cruelty, indifference and his own imperfections to find success in life and love.

It's easy to like Chris. By the final page, you feel like you've been on a journey with an old friend who has been through a lot but who now can look back with a sense of pride at finding his place in the world.

The Burden Within, Christopher G. Thompson and Dianne L. Thompson (revised edition 2020). RRP $33.99. Also available via Amazon and Audible. For more information, email 448chrisguy@gmail.com

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