A Russian girl of 20-something asked me this week: What is a swagman? I laughed. It has been years since I have heard of this word. In fact, it’s a word in Australia that is now largely forgotten by the young people.
A swagman is both a profession and lifestyle — it was — over a hundred years ago around the formation of the Australian Federation. They were men, who were tired of farming or city life — who packed their belongings in a large sack called a ‘swag’ — they would drift from town to town, living in the wilderness in between, selling and trading goods they found on the way.
They were survivalists, scavengers and most importantly — free men. Free from society’s rules, free to wonder without the attachments of a family or a mortgage. Today, the men and women who live like this are called: ‘digital nomads’ — except their swag is a laptop with mobile internet connection. They travel the world (usually to beach towns), selling their IT skills as freelancers to companies in other countries. I’ve met a few of these nomads in my life — apparently, they were some of the first people to embrace the minimalist lifestyle.
Since we are talking about both the past, let me give you a quick tip about using two forms of past tenses:
Past simple tense is used to express a single, completed action of event in a specific point in time in the past — ‘The swagman walked into the bush on Friday’
Past continuous tense is often used to express a routine of action or event in the past that is no longer happening in the present — ‘The swagman was walking into the bush on Fridays’
Notice how we put Fridays (plural) and not Friday (singular)? It’s because in past continuous tense we are talking about routine, not a single event like the past simple.
We can often start a conversation with a past continuous tense and mix it with the past simple tense to create more interesting conversations.
For example: I was walking to school. Then a swagman came and robbed me.
Try mixing them today to give your conversations more colour and style!