Journey to the Sinking Lands

A witness to the world's first evacuation of an entire people due to climate change


I went to see Grandpa today, just in case. He’s been in and out of hospital a few times over the past few months, with pneumonia and a series of small strokes. I think the doctors called them TIAs


The last time I saw him, lying in the ward bed, he seemed physically reduced, like a child under the blankets. Today he was back at the residential home, which smells of stew and disinfectant. He is stronger, with the light in his eyes again, although he does now stumble through his words. I’m not very good at being there, part of me wanting to hurry up and get away while another part is glad to have come at all. Mum sat and cut Nanny’s fingernails while Nanny worried at a fold of skin on her neck. She worried about me going to Papua New Guinea too, a quick look of despair on hearing about my plans, so I changed the subject. I’m to look after myself, she says. I said she should look after herself too, I want her there when I get back.

I tried to show Grandpa where I was going on his atlas. He used to love that book. Its pages are full of notes, newspaper cuttings and pencil notes marking where I have traveled to or lived in the past. This time I placed the open book in his hands and he looked at it, but I don’t know how much he took in. We left and came back briefly after lunch. He was asleep, a drip hanging from his nose. Not knowing whether to wake him up, I sat there, reading his Daily Telegraph. When he woke, he smiled. Now I am driving home, to pack. Tomorrow, Easter Sunday, I catch a train to London and the morning after, I fly.


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