Not the Botany Bay song


Poetry appearing on this page was produced with the generous support of artsACT

A bit of fun this week. Try singing the draft poem / song below to the tune of ‘For we’re bound for Botany Bay’ (an old Australian popular song about the convict days, for those of you from other countries). 

The thing that got me started writing this little ditty is the thought that, in my humble opinion, having a child with autism is not so much like a trip to Holland, as like being hauled against your will to an inhospitable wilderness with a bunch of strangers, dumped there and left to survive on short rations and daily floggings.  You make friends with your fellow prisoners, you adapt, and after a few years you can even see how to make a life for yourself in this strange new land – but you can never go home again…

Anyway, not meaning to get all depressing or anything – the following is meant to make you laugh, as well as say a few things ASD parents and carers are not ‘allowed’ to say. Enjoy, and comments welcome.

Not the Botany Bay song

         : A Sea Shanty for ASD Parents and Carers

Farewell to the high life forever
Farewell to my suits and my heels
For my child’s on the autism spectrum:
my career juggernaut’s lost its wheels.

Singing echo-lay, echo-lay, la-li-a
Singing meltdowns as public disgrace
Singing though we might live in Australia
It can seem we’ve been shot into space.

There’s the doctors, the psychs and the speechies
There’s the OTs and physios too
Yet not one of these qualified specialists
knows what we poor parents go through.

Singing maybe this thing is contagious
Singing I used to think I was fine
But now all of my best friends are therapists
– or they’re parents of children like mine.

‘Taint the unscheduled detour I cares about
‘Taint the fact that I still don’t know why
But it feels like we’ve both turned invisible
as the rest of the world rolls on by.

Singing mindfully making the best of it
Singing gazing from gutters at stars
But the heartache and stress and the rest of it
feels like being ‘transported’ to Mars.

Well our home is all plastered with visuals
and we never have guests as a rule
and the unstructured horror of holidays
means we can’t wait to get back to school.

Singing Floortime and Musical Therapy
Singing PECs and Lovaas ABA.
Singing snake-oil and rebirth and mercury
– for those shysters can smell desperate prey.

Then there’s friendships and hygiene and puberty
and employment and learning to lie.
It’s a long row to hoe, that’s for certain sure
– and then who’ll step in when you die?

Singing once I was witty and erudite
Singing once I had beauty to spare
Now I bang on about intervention plans
and I think I’ve got lice in my hair.

So I s’pose we should make ourselves comfortable
’cause the voyage will last many years,
so let’s chuckle along with our cabin-mates
because where there’s no laughter there’s tears.

Singing God Bless our good ship The Spectran
may she weather the storm and the swell
and may all who sail in her land safely
though they’ve hair-raising stories to tell.

(c)  Melinda Smith 2011

5 thoughts on “Not the Botany Bay song

  1. Love it. Not sure that’s the right description for my appreciation of your insights to a different planet? Sang my way to the very end. Lucky you can’t hear that!

  2. Oh Melinda, that was absolutely brillaint and so true. You are a master with words – describing the situation so beautifully and truthfully and from the heart. This resonates with me just so much! Gosh, I could go on and on and on – can’t wait to read more, just love what you are doing.

  3. Spot on as usual – well done Melinda.How did you know I’d be feeling so glum this grey cold Sunday? I’ll revisit it whenever I need to lighten up a bit. KT.

  4. Wonderful!! I have never really been a reader of poetry but I find your writing creates the most amazing visuals with true honest feelings attached. I dont seem to get lost in the message, I find I want to keep reading through to the end which is unusual for me!! Please keep them coming

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