Friday, December 31, 2010

What can I do with all these tears?

What can I do with all these tears?
I had never before seen the connection between the weeping tears
and tears that rip open until now.
Now as I feel my heart being torn open again the tears come freely.
What is this thing about grief that punishes me so much for loving?

What can I do with all these tears?
Can I collect them and wash myself free of the memories
that constantly nibble at me now.
But you are all around me and within me, both outside and at home.
There is the scent of you, enticing but sadly out of reach.

What can I do with all these tears?
Let them fall and get them to send you a message of lasting love
that will forever be in my heart.
Telling you of your children and grandchildren, of music and birds.
Of the sea and the hills and wind and rain and of holding your hand.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Manifesto, you must be joking!

Manifesto

There are a few words in the English language that have become hateful to me. Manifesto is one of them. It is political of course and represents to me the promises of change and encouragement to the people that something good is going to happen if their support is forthcoming, when in fact for the most part overt good intentions were but a mask for corruption, cruelty, oppression and unbelievable privation.

Whenever a politician with a smile on his or her face waves a piece of paper in front of a crowd of onlookers or in these days a media scrum, I cringe. How can we all be fooled yet once again that a pig with its nose in the trough is actually going to do anything for us? Get real, in politics it is sometimes the best option to listen to the mild mannered orator who promises very little indeed! Politicians play on our fear, greed and hope for the impossible.

Even if we take the “O” off the end of the word Manifesto and get the word Manifest we have another word with darker undertones. It seems to be rarely used except to inform of a disaster and that a ship’s or plane’s manifest has to be checked to see who may be lost or missing in a disaster.

Laini and Megg, what a prompt to inflict on us in this season of joy and thanksgiving!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A dog that needs guidance


Bark if I have told you this before but I really must get it off my chest. It is not like that lazy itch you get with fleas when a few scratches to the tummy or a nip to back will satisfy you for a little. What am I going on about you ask? It is the job of being a guide dog. No, No! I don’t want you to go on about what a cushy job I’ve got. I know all that stuff about, being well fed, going for lots of walks and being a boss of sorts to make sure master doesn’t walk into danger. I want to talk about me. And don’t sniff me like that Rastus; I am not supposed to circle round otherwise he might trip up.

The question really is: am I still a dog? I know few of us really know our parents, certainly not our dog father. And who can remember our fellow cubs in the litter? It’s just that I rarely do really doggy things. I’ve been trained you see, right from a puppy to do just one job and to forget all the really canine things in life. Oh I remember when being licked by my mother (together with the other five pups), her going on about that I must remember that dogs are the most important animal. Dogs are the true link between man and beasts because we tamed them to accept us into their lives as an exchange of needs. We needed to be fed and they needed us to bark, it is a simple as that.

Then she told me about our special gifts, about another Labrador that used to collect things. I bet he was my father. Well he lived in a family home and couldn’t fetch rabbits and birds that the man had killed with his banging stick, because his man didn’t do that sort of thing. So one morning he managed to get out the side gate by squeezing under it and seeing a rolled up newspaper on the front lawn, thought it would be a good idea to see if there were any more to bring back. I have no idea why his master was cross when he found this great heap of newspapers on his lawn a little later. But Rastus who can figure out these humans?

Rastus? Rastus you are a mean dog you have left me alone talking to myself. Hello, master is getting off his seat. It is time to go. Who would be a guide dog?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Antidote

You have poisoned me, irrecoverably, irreconcilably, irredeemably. I will never be the same, not now, not ever. How could I be? What is it about you that could be so cruel? How could you? I am glad you have gone. I really am. I am better off without you. You don’t believe me, do you? You don’t believe me because you thought that you had a hold on me that could keep me snared for ever. Isn’t that the case?
Well you are wrong. And I will tell your why. It’s because I have an antidote to your poison. What a blessing it was that you gave me the flick. You opened my eyes. You washed out my ears. You straightened me out. You did all that without realising that you did me a favour. I am amazed how quickly I got you out of my system. You were purged. You were expunged. You were obliterated. It is you that went down the drain. It is you that has gone. Goodbye!
And what about me, you ask? Well I feel clean, refreshed, born again, renewed, better, brighter, and most important looking at the future. No, no, not looking to the future, but looking at the future. There she is. She is looking at me now. She is smiling. No, not smiling, she is laughing because she is so pleased to see me. I can see it in her eyes. I can see it the way she is walking toward me. I can feel it the way she is reaching out for me, touching my hands, hugging me tight. I am so glad you have got you out of my life as I have some real living to do.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What a difference a day makes


I should hate them really but I don’t. I am lying of course, I do hate them. She belonged to me. Now I am hurt. I never expected to be hurt so much by her choosing him. How long were we together? It seemed like forever. The truth is she became part of me. I don’t want to go into all that stuff about, touch, looks, scent, unseen things, unsaid words, the romance, the togetherness, everything. She was my life. I even thought we knew what each other was thinking. How daft was I to believe that? Clearly then I wasn’t hers. How did I lose her? I Just don’t know, and to him too. Was he better than me? Clearly she thought so. Where to from here? Can I win her back? No, no you stupid fool. It’s over. I just can’t understand that it was but yesterday when we laughed so much at the Karaoke night at the pub. She was so brave. She got up and sang "Memories". She looked so beautiful in that tight fitting dress. She had urged me to sing with her. I just wasn’t game. So she did it all by herself and what a reception she got, or was it just the dress that had them cheering? Whatever it was it is all over now. "Memories", perhaps that was her goodbye message there. What a difference a day makes.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Too busy for bright ideas

There was an urban legend many years ago that my father told us enraptured boys that ‘they’ had discovered how to make an everlasting match. However the match companies in Sweden or wherever the cartels where in those days that controlled the match industries had bought the patent and promptly hidden it! Urban legends are a great source of wonder and amusement but that isn’t what I wanted to talk about.

In those dark days during the Second World War when matches were essential for all household tasks there was another industry that my father was involved in. No! Make that two. He was in a reserved occupation and was not called up for the forces as he helped to maintain the electrical power system in London. There was a minor drawback to being relieved military duties and that was compulsory fire watching. London was being bombed and much of the early bombing was terror bombing by dropping incendiary bombs that would explode and set light to the building they landed on. Clearly the power station and sub-stations that provided electricity needed to be protected so a proportion of staff sat on the roof all night fire watching with buckets of sand and water to dowse the bombs before they did much damage. I thought this was a far better job than his normal one of maintaining the batteries and other equipment in the sub station that provided power to the consumers in London.

As the war progressed normal bombing eased up and the V1 and V2 terror weapons took over to scare the population witless. By the population I mean the adults as for kids the war was exciting and my brother and I would be so pleased when Dad finally came home after being a day or two away in the midst of the bombing with chunks of shrapnel from burst bomb fragments as presents for us.

When the nights were long and the bombers quiet someone had the bright idea to manufacturer cigarette lighters at work. So a minor industry was set up with hand made lighters coming off the production line. These were ideal presents in a cash strapped country where even the most mundane items were just not procurable. One day our alarm clock at home died and there was a panic to get a replacement because of the need for my father to start off for work well before dawn. A permit had to be obtained from the local authority or the prime minister or someone like that, to purchase such an extravagance. Finally a clock became available and we found that it was made in Canada! No doubt all the British clock factories were producing clocks for bombs as gifts to the enemy and none could be spared for the local populace.

Nowadays I often wish I had kept some of those souvenirs from the war, the bits of shrapnel, the “Sweet Caporal” cigarette packs with silhouettes of Allied planes on the back, or even one copy of the “Daily Mirror” from those days printed on just one sheet of newsprint but with the cartoons inside with scantily clad “Jane” helping to win the war for the allies. However back then I didn’t have any such bright ideas.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My intense hatred of camping

Shortly after we had moved house after the war my brother and I were encouraged to join the Boys Brigade. Curiously this youth activity preceded Baden Powell’s Scouts and was perhaps his inspiration. The Boys Brigade did all the usual useful activities in learning to tie knots, signalling to each other with flags by the semaphore system, cooking over a campfire and most important being in a band that played discordant music to the dismay of local residents when we marched around the streets on a Sunday morning. Both my brother and I played the side drums or snare drums because that involved little but keeping in time with the bass drum and not dropping our sticks when marching!

Our group met once a week in a Congregational Church hall and unlike the later Scouts were encouraged to attend the occasional services there when the congregation saw fit to recognise our existence.

The highlight of the year for the group was of course to go camping. Now this filled me with no great pleasure as for some time my brother had wanted a tent to camp out in the back garden and he got his wish. An Army surplus two man tent was acquired and unlike tents of today had no bottom, you were expected to provide your own waterproof ground sheet; the tent flaps were tied up with cords rather than zips and the dimensions generally were minimum and probably designed for hobbits.

My brother quickly arranged a sleep out and I was encouraged to accompany him. The ground was hard even on our lawn in the back garden. I was cold and miserable and my brother seemed to have no intention of going to sleep being satisfied to flick the torch we had on and off in my face. The snacks we took in with us were soon eaten and after a sleepless night I welcomed the predawn light to slink back into the house and return to my own bed for an hour or two.

My camping experience didn’t end there as a camping weekend was organised by the Boys Brigade properly supervised by the Captain and other minor officers who clearly knew what they were doing. I went along this time because my brother couldn’t make it and I thought there might be a good side to camping after all. We trekked a few miles out of town and camped in a clearing in a wood at a site prearranged with a local farmer. It started quite well with the pitching of tents, the campfire and the meal of sausages with everybody singing and laughing. It went downhill very quickly after that. It started to rain. By the time we retreated to the tents we were already soaked and in that humid atmosphere boys being boys we transferred that wet to everything in the tent as well. Sleep came no easier for me this time even though James Wilkins my tent mate was in the arms of Morpheus while I was still crawling into my damp pyjamas.

Once again I was up before dawn and in the drizzle outside helped to make an ineffectual camp fire with other sleepy heads. My whole being felt as though it had been smoked like a kipper. The fun and games planned for the day were not curtailed on account of the continuing rain. I did everything by rote or perhaps it was by order along with my other flagging friends. That evening’s meal was less jolly; everyone was tired, dirty, wet and miserable and we had yet another day to endure. This was supposed to be a fun prequel to a whole week away later that summer with lots of other troupes of happy Boys Brigade campers. I never went.

When the Lioness and I first got married the subject of holidays often had the words camping and caravan come up but never ever was I persuaded to let that interfere with my intention to only to go on holiday in accommodation which was infinitely better than that experienced at home.

Monday, October 18, 2010

My Harvest

What an emotive word Harvest is. I never fail to be aroused by the word that to me expresses the fruition of our lives, our loves, and our whole purpose for being. I was but small when the joy of the harvest was made clear to me. It was the climax to the agricultural year when crops were harvested, as it was for the horticultural year too when fruit was picked, vegetables gathered and the lazy days of summer seduced us all with all its fecundity.

Our families were not farmers, or workers on the land merely neighbours of such activities. For me the hay grew in the field at the bottom of the garden. My Dad walked through the still dark meadow as a short cut to get to the railway station to catch his train to work. He had a nodding acquaintance with the cows in that meadow that accepted his need to cross their food bowl with the mist still rising in the early dawn, and the night owls returning to nest after a picking up a mouse or two.

Later the local farmer would encourage us boys to gather up the mown hay and build it into stooks that he could load more easily when labour was so short in the war years. Those with the largest stack would get some small prize such as a second hand jigsaw puzzle that we worked so hard to obtain.

One Aunt and her family spent a week or so hop picking. We were enticed once to join cousins our own age on that adventure but soon found that the work was hot and back breaking and small hands were stained for days after and red raw with the effort of plucking the hops from the vine. The pungent smell of the hops however was enticing and no doubt when grown up and drinking the amber liquid older minds would recall the source of the flavour.

Gardens were large when I was small: large enough to grow much of the household vegetables. My Dad grew the basics such as potatoes, carrots, runner beans and cabbages. Other uncles were far more adventurous achieving mighty crops of onions, leeks, Savoy cabbages, broccoli, broad beans and marrows. Naturally we boys had our own pathetic rows of beetroot and radishes which grew well and quickly from our neglect. For adults though their gardens were never big enough. Wartime and the extended rationing period after the conflict enabled those keen enough to garden council allotments. Some fathers spent more time there than at home. They built little sheds for their tools but in reality it was their retreat from everyday life. A place to sit to watch the garden grow, to smoke and chat with neighbours working on their gardens and no doubt as a blessed respite from nagging at home.

My grandfather had a number of fruit trees in his garden. Apples, pears, plums and damsons were nurtured and harvested in due season. My father tended to ignore the fruit trees in his garden but despite this we had one plum tree, a Victoria plum it was, that thrived on this neglect and produced the most luscious fruit. In my minds eye I can still taste them now.

On occasion as I recall that sweet smell of an English summer my mind drifts back all those years and realizes that there was subtle lesson being taught me then. That lesson is so simple; like the crops, the fruit and the vegetables, we too have been planted here to produce fruit of our own making. This harvest, this product of our shared lives has resulted in some very fine fruit indeed.

Monday, October 11, 2010

What is essential in a friendship?


I have been so lucky with friendships in my life. Curiously though, many of the friendships I have had in sport, work or socially have all be marked by one peculiarity. Inevitably each friend has had one or more irritating trait or fault that enhanced rather than diminished that friendship.

Let me expand on this. One great friend of mine in my later teens soon after I started work had the same interests as me. We played cricket and tennis together, we liked the same movies and always found each other company at the local drinking hole at weekends. He was generous in my poverty and good humoured in my naivety yet as I slowly got better at my job, earned more money and started to fulfil my ambitions he stayed as he was always making plans for the future, going to do exciting things but never quite achieving them.

A few years later I befriended a workmate who I socialised with in the hedonistic seaside town of Brighton in England. What a laugh he was, he knew all the right people, knew all the exciting places to visit and clearly enjoyed my company as we seemed have the same sense of humour. Sadly he too was flawed by having been a lover of a married woman who was murdered by her jealous husband. Yet few knew that he was cause of her demise. Sadly that secret was shared by me.

When I first came to Australia one of my first jobs was to supervise some major building work in a country location that took me away from home all week. In the country town where I stayed I became mates with a traveller in smallgoods who delivered his wares to all the country towns nearby. We met playing pool in a café and drinking in the local hotel and I was encouraged by him to join him in a game of poker with a local business man and his cronies. So I went, lost the money I could afford and stopped playing. Not so my friend. He lost his money and some of his employer’s cash, and then borrowed from me. Surprise, surprise, he was a gambling addict!

I could go on, but I think I have illustrated my point. Friendship is forged by the ability to relate to another person, to enjoy their company, and to forgive their faults and help them out when it is necessary. What is essential is to like a person for the good qualities they have but accept that like yourself they are not perfect and that hopefully they can forgive your faults too.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Flashback

Do you have recurring dreams, well nightmares, really? I have an awful one that haunts me constantly. The trouble is that it is true!
In my dream I am a much younger person, barely twelve. I had just started a new school and was what they might call a mediocre student. To teachers back then that meant “He could do better!” This was certainly written on my reports.
Perhaps I can tell you what continually comes back to me at night. There was a deputy sports master, a tall, strict, sarcastic man who clearly had army experience. He chose the first session he took with our class to do some competitive boxing. Sparring might have been appropriate but in his wisdom he elected pairs of boys to don the gloves and to really box. He encouraged each twosome to land punches and be aggressive.
I hated boxing. Sport in my juvenile mind was kicking a ball in soccer, hitting a ball in cricket or running around the oval getting puffed out or jumping up or along wherever the inclination took you. The sports master paired off the boys in some haphazard way and I found myself putting on gloves with my best friend Bertie.
Bertie and I did everything together at school. At weekends I often rode my bicycle out to his Dad’s farm to stay the day where we did all the usual adventurous things boys do at that age. We explored the woods and streams, got wet, tried to avoid playing with his younger brother, kicked a football on a miniature soccer field his Dad had mowed for him in a paddock with real goalposts and ate with his family at lunchtime which was real treat as his Mum seemed to cook everything, better and richer than what I had at home. It was heaven.
So there we were with gloves on facing each other. We were both nervous and apprehensive but were told to go ahead and box. So with careful indifference to this supposed sport we sparred a bit but avoided hitting each other.
This was a big mistake as the sports master then urged us on to land our blows and so we did. I clearly had a longer reach than little Bertie and managed to land few on his body and arms then one punch slipped through and landed on his face. Tears immediately sprung to his eyes and I was appalled. I had hit my best friend. The bout was soon over and I apologized profusely to him.
After that our friendship should have returned to normal, but it didn’t. From that day on we drifted apart. I no longer went to his farm, and we both found other friends. I was however left with sometime far more worrying. It was that recurring dream of that day. That blow has been magnified a hundred times over the years. In some dreams I knock him out, in others there is blood and gore and yet others I am arrested for assault.
May you be free of a flashback as awful as that of mine.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Lioness


Can I tell you about M? I first saw her, oh so many years ago. Can you imagine me as a young man, well gawky youth really, who knew so little yet because of my age I thought I knew everything?

I worked in this small town in Hampshire, England. In the evening after work I would walk my way along the main street, by the shoe shop, the banks and the bus stops, up the hill past the post office and back home. Barely five minutes walk really as it was a small town!

As I passed the bus stops there would be the small crowd of commuters waiting for their bus to take them home. On this particular evening I noticed a stunning girl waiting for her bus to come in together with the assortment of other travellers. Businessmen, older school children and a fair smattering of wives, mothers and working girls usually carrying bags or baskets of stuff to take home.

My stunning girl was tall, wrapped up in a warm coat, hatless but with a blond streak through her light brown hair. I was mesmerised. Her beautiful face with what I called a ski-jump nose was framed by the turned up collar of her coat to protect against the cold wind. Her stunning green eyes didn’t see me but I drank her in like a vintage wine. I nicknamed her “The Lioness.”

I couldn’t imagine how I could make the first approach. Sometimes fortune favours even the weak for luckily a nurse made a similar trip as the lioness when working nights at a hospital on the same bus route. I asked her if she could mention my interest! I know you may think that may be a bit weak but on the arrival of her bus in the mornings she did indeed look for me and in her turn asked a friend if she knew of this lanky youth.

I plucked up enough courage to approach her in the street as she walked to her place of work and suggested we might go out on a date. This proved to be a little frustrating as I suggested a trad jazz club, and I am sure she would have preferred to go ballroom dancing. A compromise was made and we agreed on the movies. We chose a French thriller “Rififi.” This was a good choice as there was very little dialogue in the film. I did the right thing and presented her with a box of New Berry Fruits and of course paid for the best seats in the cinema.

A little more than a year later we were married, despite grumblings from my family who thought we were too young, and frustration from hers as she already had a steady boyfriend who I was unaware of until later. The amazing thing is that once we met there was no doubt with either of us that we had met our partner for life.

We have been married now for over 50 years and each touch, each kiss and each hug feels the same and are just as precious now as they were back then. That is love.

Photo of Author and M in 1957

Monday, September 20, 2010

I want to come clean

I want to come clean

You see that I’ve been

Too long on the scene

If you know what I mean


It started with Kathleen

Who I met at the Green

Must have been sixteen

And didn’t have a bean.


Wow! that was unseen

That first little bean

Took me really keen

Aboard that time machine.


More came to demean

Me, I drifted so lean

Through fantasies seen

orange, pink and pea green.


Without my vaccine

I was a fiend real mean

From the world’s screen

Smashed in between.


Please do help me wean

Myself from the unclean

Get out of the ravine

And perhaps intervene.


To rise up like a queen

On you I must lean

Aid me, aid me Dean

to break this habit obscene.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Don't mention treatment to me

I always feel sad when I hear the word treatment spoken. It is not a bad word, it's just that significant milestones in my life have been ruined by that word alone. I'll give you an example of just three.

I was at school and struggling with some subjects. English expression might be the way it is described now. For us back then it was "Write an essay" (on whatever subject came into the teacher's mind that week). As a schoolboy I fared well with my peers but in front of class I became a bumbling booby. When I handed in my essay in I had high hopes that I would get a reasonable mark. No luck in that quarter "Old Egg" (he might have said had that been my name at the time), "Your treatment of the subject was abysmal". Much laughter from the rest of the class. Meanwhile I shrank to less than half my normal size.

Then there was the time a group of us teenagers did lots together. Occasionally there would be dates between the couples and so it was I managed a trip to the cinema with Angela. Yes, we held hands and I even managed a peck on the cheek to wind the evening up as it were when I walked her home. Her father met us as I walked her to her front door. He glared at me and after bidding Angela goodnight I looked forward to getting to know her better. No luck in that quarter either. From that moment on I appeared to be of an alien species to Angela. The other blokes commented on this saying, "So you got the treatment too did you?"

And so it goes. Health is the final point. From childhood treat has always meant something pleasant, a surprise, an outing, a visit or any number of joyful experiences. Why should an encouraging word like "Treatment" have to mean being subjected to an assortment of indignities just to get you well again. Most of us will have experienced this in one form or another and I have no intention of showing you mine in case you show me yours! I was hoping to find that treatment was an anagram for something dire. There are in fact very few such words in Treatment. Mean is one, rent and tear are others, but the prize word I found to show what treatment was really all about was enema!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Wait


I waited long my lovely
On that summer's night
All neat and smart and longing
For your presence to light
My fire, my passion
And promise you my life.

I waited long my princess
As the air turned chill
My plans went all asunder
And much against my will
wept some tears of doubt
that you would be my wife.

I waited what seemed like ever
the gifts I held seemed poor
Could I lose my precious who
to me meant so much more
Sadly I left that place
And trod my way back home

You didn't ring to tell me why
Or even write a letter
I lost you that summer's eve
To a man who was surely better
But as the past is past
I think I'll ring young Cindy

Postcard "The Flirt" by Boileau in writer's possesion

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Faith


My mother had no faith in the sea’s trustworthiness. She panicked whenever the ocean, sea, tidal inlet or even a sluggish river were in close proximity. This became apparent to me as an 11 year old when we spent a holiday with relatives who lived by the sea at Littlehampton in Sussex shortly after WW2. We stayed a in a village a tidy walk from the town and the sea itself was still a distance from the shops. The beach was flat and mostly sandy which was where most people congregated close to all conveniences such as the ice cream parlours, the tea rooms, the amusement arcade, the putting greens and of course the public conveniences.
My father was more adventurous and on hearing of a deserted beach on the other side of the river that ran through the town decided on an expedition to this haven from the hoi polloi, in order that games, picnics and sea bathing could be enjoyed without the need to jostle for space on the main beach, trip over others belongings and join hundreds of others in the an almost religious dip into the ocean akin to bathing in the Ganges. Mother approved the plan and we found that to reach the unspoilt pristine beach we would have to be rowed across the river by a boat plied by a boatman. This was exciting. The boatman himself was a gnarled weather beaten old salt that said little and merely did his job whilst smoking a old pipeful of rank tobacco that sent up a cloud and stench so foul no other water craft came near us. I do remember his hands though; great brown knotted clumps of flesh on the ends of his arms that gripped the oars and seemed to me to epitomise immense strength.
I could see the panic on my mother’s face as we and several other hardy souls intent on exploration also clambered into the boat. The charge per passenger was 1d and for this we were ferried a few yards across the River Arun. This comparatively short river rising somewhere to the north of Arundel was extremely fast flowing. At Littlehampton this was quite evident when the tide was out. When the tide was in, as it was this morning, the basin filled and the water was sluggish so rowing across to the other side was simple, much to the relief of mother. Thus it was when we crossed for the first time and safely delivered on foreign territory we trekked the few hundred yards to the beach and spent the whole day there, exploring, eating, playing and even bathing. Mother however merely donned her sunsuit and had no discourse at all with the sea.
With all the food eaten, burnt by the wind and the sun, tired out from so much exploration and hungry again we made our way back to the ferry crossing. There was a queue of customers as the journey seemed to take longer this time. The tide was going out. No that is not true it was racing out and the pair of ferry boats in use were making very heavy weather of the trip. When we finally boarded and pushed off the boatman with grim determination immediately turned the craft and rowed with a steely look on his face in what appeared to be wrong direction upstream and continued that way painfully slowly. Only when the berth on the opposite side seemed totally out of reach did he carefully swing the boat around and drift down with the current. The craft seemed hopelessly out of control until some yards from the berth did he nudge the boat into the waiting hands on shore to quickly fasten it and unload the passengers on dry land. Now we boys and Dad certainly had faith that all would be well. Mother on the other hand did not open her eyes until she was helped out of the boat on the other side.
Postcard of the tiny ferryboat in middle of photo crowded with faithful trippers c.1950

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dangerous Sea



The wind swept over the dunes and blew the fine particles of sand in the air. Beyond the dunes lay the beach desolate now, devoid of birds, people or any other activity save for the relentless breakers roaring in from the ocean. Crashing, pounding, spraying millions of droplets of a fine mist of sea water over everything. Ragged kelp blew along the shoreline, ripped from the ocean bed and tossed carelessly by the sea out of her care. The storm raged on.

The man had ventured out not out of willingness to battle the elements but for the need of his family. The foul weather had lasted for days and the need to gather food was urging him on to combat the elements. He ploughed his way through the tussock that in its uneven growth gave him occasional moments of respite from the gale but the battering returned with full force as his body emerged from the dip in the dunes.

He had to get down to the beach and at least dig for a few shellfish at the waters edge. He carried a digging tool with him fashioned out of an oyster shell. Slung over his shoulder was a rudimentary bag of woven grass. This was his woman's and she, still sickly after the birth of their child was barely nursing the infant on the poor pickings of food that he had gathered these last few days.

He strode now with purpose across the beach blown this way and that, barely able to keep his feet as he approached the shoreline. The waves were angry and moaned with evil intent at his approach. He had played this game before and as he neared the surging foam he crouched down and plied the shell to dig where the wet strand was bubbling with creatures making their presence known safe from the elements. He dug and scooped up the pitifully small shells into his grass pouch. The wind shrieked with annoyance at his bravery and the sea pounded thunderously roaring her anger at his incursion into her territory. More and more shells fell into his bag and he sighed with relief that today they would all eat.

That was his mistake for just the shortest of moments he glanced at his catch and took his mind off the waves and missed the sight of the mighty breaker heading for him and him alone.
"Come to me my brave man. You are wasted on that tranquil land where you know not of true danger. I want you resting in my bosom from whence you came a myriad years ago. You have lost the fight and will forever rest with me."

With that the sea rose up and broke over his pathetically small body and sucked him back into the ocean. No one saw his leave the shore.

The next day, the storm spent, his woman and child ventured forth into a calmer day. She scanned the shore for her man with the infant suckling at her breast. She searched in vain from the rocky outcrop above the beach and cried tears of fear and sorrow. "I will not give up I will search for you till the end of time" she vowed. Maybe she would.

Photo by Dr. Dénes László

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A mother and child's view



Just off the beaten path, close to a jumble of rocks and tussock at the edge of the sea, stands an outcrop of granite. Beaten and weathered and rounded by a thousand storms, cold driving rain, salt spray, and the never ceasing wind. This clump of stone stands fast. Facing the Southern Ocean, constantly watching out to sea. The granite is worn into unlikely shapes, squat rounded forms, cracked and weathered over and over till now they seem like two figures keeping a silent vigil. To some they look like misshapen loaves of bread, to others giant marbles stacked in an unlikely position but to me they look like a mother and her child.

Walking in the late grey dawn of winter, no life on the shore, wind whistling in the rocks, salt spume in the air, I come close and see them there.

"Where are are you my husband?" She seems to say. The child, no arms fashioned from stone, stands close by weeping the salty tears of loneliness. Looking out beyond them to the sea, I too search for a sign that their long lost spouse and father will return. The sea relentless in its boiling way gives no clue or assurance to his whereabouts. Constantly on the move, now grey, green and cold, indifferent, uncaring.

The two figures on the shore now both are crying and I alone mourn with them. Who was he, so mighty perhaps that legend may have wrought these stone relics to ever search for him. Or perhaps he was no more than one, such as you or I, that by cruel fate was torn from his kindred in a simple fishing trip, then sorrow and despair turned even mere mortals to everlasting form.

I go back there often and must confess that I have spoken many times to these remnants of the long lost family.

"Was he a loving man?"

"Did he play with the child?"


"How was he lost so long ago? A storm at sea? A shark perhaps? Was it an argument with his mates that ended in tragedy?"


"Maybe it was his time to be called by the great spirit of land and sea and sky?"


None of my questions are answered, and ignoring me she searches constantly for a sign of him in the waves. Then when she is left alone, she seems to gain comfort by being close to the child figure by her side.

It was during the spring that I last saw her. What a fine day that was. The warm sunshine had brought tiny white flowers to bloom in the grass, the lightest of breezes moved through the air wafting scents of new life around me. The tide was out, far out, and the endless breakers of a few months back were barely visible in the swell.

"Hello,"
I hailed her like an old friend even though she had never acknowledged me, except to show me her face streaked with dried tears. As I looked at them both they seemed in better spirits. It was probably the sun reflecting from the granite. But no, there was something about the way they stood; it was as though they were leaning forward in anticipation towards the sea.

I looked out too, Beyond the shoreline and I could see what they saw. The swell of the sea, not green but aqua and now deeper blue, The water barely rippling with the light wind showed me why things were different this day.

There it is now, on the low tide just as the swell passes. In the trough I could just see a rounded knob of granite just coming to the surface.

Her man is coming home to them from the sea.

Photo by the author of rocks at Port Elliot, South Australia

Sunday, August 8, 2010

If only you would meet me half way.

No one could remember when it started. It must have been a very long time ago. He had been born of heat and passion, of crushing weight and hardness of heart. He was a rock. She on the other hand was created from gentler, softer liquid and gaseous things that clung together in love. She rocked the life she had in and on her. She was the sea.

They were so different, he was the strong silent type, powerful and durable and cared for no one. She loved to dance and sing and caressed and cared for everyone. The they first met on a silvery strand of beach. When she saw him she loved him straight away and wanted to possess him and wrap him up in her arms. She couldn't reach him and he looked down on her and thought "What a silly skittish creature, If I could speak I would tell her to go away."

The sea was sad that she couldn't reach him. So she waited a little way off, lapping at the little grains of pure white sand that separated her from her desire. She fidgeted with forlorn fondness for the rock and warmed her little wavelets on the sun bleached shore.

The moon saw the sad sea sighing and the arrogant rock on the shore. She called to the sea, "Come listen to me, my friend the sea. I'll help to make him yours."
So the moon came close to the earth and the sea rose to hear her advice. But she couldn't catch what her friend was saying. The moon passed across the sky and was gone over the horizon. The sea collapsed back into her bed and cried some very salty tears of disappointment.

Each night when the moon came out she tried in vain to listen for the words of wisdom, only to be frustrated each time. She looked up at the moon.
"Beautiful Moon, why won't you help me?"
"Courage, you restless creature, can't you see that you can reach him now."

With that the moon slipped away from view again. The sea went back to the shore and saw the rock sitting there as usual.
"Rock, I want to touch you." He ignored her.
She came a little closer, "I want to kiss you." But he still had no eyes for her.
She came right up to the edge of the rock. "Come and join me, I want to be with you forever."
The rock, was furious. How dare this wavy, wavy, watery waste, talk to him as an equal.
"You are beneath me," he thought as strongly as he could, which was a pity because just at that moment, the sea had made a supreme effort to reach him and a tiny finger of water touched him, and she felt what he had thought immediately. She recoiled with emotion. Her feeling of shame was so great, that she hurried away to conceal herself. But she couldn't hide, especially now that the moon was helping her. She had to meet him every day. Her shame was turned to bitterness, and she became very angry indeed.

He was resolute. On no account would he have anything to do with her. From that day on they knew they were enemies and forever waged a constant battle by taunting and teasing each other. He was made of granite and sat with pride on the edge of the land. He stood out from his brothers and faced the ocean. He was arrogant and mocked the waves as they broke over him. The salty water came first as a trickle, then a flood, then a torrent of liquid. Splashing and separating into a hundred, a thousand, then tens of thousand droplets, all over him.
"What are you," he thought, "You that break to pieces so easily." But she didn't give up.

One day she enveloped him, she wrapped herself about him and pushed him and pulled him, but he stood firm, nothing daunted him. She tired of holding on and left him. But she called out to him, "I hugged you. I kissed you. I'll be back tomorrow," and she laughed in her rippling way. He said nothing, but he knew she had told the truth. Her kisses were still wet on his face, and he longed for the sun to dry him.

She returned again and again. Sometimes she would tickle him, but he refused to laugh. Later she came back and was so cross that she beat and whipped him with her waves, but she was no match for him, he smugly bore it all, he was granite. Everyday she returned. Everyday she had the courage to approach him. Everyday he ignored her, as if she meant nothing to him. Everyday he emerged from her onslaught, his head held high with a stony expression.

She loved to tease him, her fingers of creamy suds and foam washed him and scrubbed him again and again. But then finding herself too high up the beach rushed back over the sand, with a whoosh and a sigh.
"I am invincible," he thought to himself.
"We'll see, we'll see," she whispered.
For many years they challenged and chided the other, the rock put his hard face toward her every time she attacked him, and she sought the help of her friends, the winds, to mount stormy attacks on him. But neither won.

It must have been that their old mother, the Earth, who saw them arguing and turned away from her children in disgust. For when she did so the whole world tilted and the seasons changed. The sea no longer could bask on the warm sand and the rock found it harder to dry off the sea's kisses. And it was getting colder and colder. It was so cold that after the sea had smothered the rock with her wet embrace one day, the water never dried, but froze right on the surface of the rock that night. The next day it took a long time for the frozen water to melt.

The following day, the sea water made the rock wet again and when it froze at night, it hurt the rock. He couldn't remember ever having been hurt before. And it was only after the sea had bathed him that he felt better again. Every night the same thing happened, the tepid water of the sea soaked into the rock, and hurt him very much when it froze at night. He longed for the sea to come and tend to his smarting skin. One day while the sea was a little way off the frost in the rock hurt so bad he felt he could burst. And he did. Some tiny chips of rock broke loose and fell down beside him. He felt a little better but was not completely himself. But all was not over, the sea came back every day to see him and bathed his wounds, but with each touch he knew that when the frost came back, he would suffer again. And he did.

This torment of the rock went on for days and weeks and months and years. The sea could see what was happening and everyday rushed in to comfort him, all their enmity forgotten. But in doing so she made things worse. One day the water had got right inside him and the frost was particularly cruel. Before the night was out the rock spoke for the very first time. The sea heard him, and the sky heard him and the moon as well. He moaned out aloud, "Help me." and shattered into several pieces.

Yet the damage was not complete. Every night it was the same. His body was split up by the cold and the water freezing within him. In a little while all that was left of that proud rock was a pile of little stones.

The sea didn't mind, she looked after him. Every day she went back to see him and played with him. She raced him up the beach and dragged him down again and he got smaller and smaller and smaller. Until he too, was just so many grains of sand on that sloping shore.

Now the rock and sea are always together. As they dance in the shallows of the surf you can hear them singing. Just listen as they rush up the beach and back down again. Now when you look at the sea in the setting of the sun, I am sure you can see her winking at you, as if to say, "I won, I won."

Monday, August 2, 2010

Thank you Uncle Dusty

"Where do you want me to look up?"
"Bordertown of course for Mabel's birthday card." My wife laughed her tinkling little laugh, and went on, "Have you found it yet?"
I thumbed through the small print. "Bombo, Bondi, Bonnie Hills, Booleroo Centre, Borambil. Ha! Here it is: Bordertown 5268."
"Thanks", Chrissy said, and addressed the envelope with a flourish.

I continued to stare at the postcode listing. Booleroo Centre. I felt a shudder of fear go through me. After all this time I hadn't forgotten. How could I? Forty years or more ago we lived in that delightful country town of Jamestown in the state's mid north. Win, Jack and me were all born there, in the District hospital. Well I know that now, Mum always said she found me down by Belalie creek, just past Humphries mill and fodder store. I believed her for many years and thought I was privileged to have such an unusual beginning. The thought of being abandoned by strangers down among the big red gums there, where the scent of eucalypts was so strong in the summer's evening and where kangaroos could be seen at the creeks edge excited my imagination. I had surely been the offspring of bushrangers on the run, despite it being 1947!

Our family was spread right across the northern towns, from Port Pirie to Yunta. Uncle Eric lived at Laura and worked on the railway there. Mums sister Auntie Viv lived up at Booleroo Centre with her husband, Uncle George. His nickname was 'Dusty'. Being the youngest I called him Uncle Dusty which made everyone laugh, especially when I politely said, "Thank you, Uncle Dusty." Auntie Viv however was a mysterious character that we saw very rarely. Mum would make excuses for her by saying, "Poor Viv, she's had such a lot to put up with."

Uncle Dusty, was little better as I remember. He was portly and walked with a slight limp. What sticks out in my mind was his habit of saying, "Damn and bugger it all," at every opportunity. This phrase peppered his conversation regardless of subject or necessity and I can see Mum's face now as he said it in front of us kids. She would give out a little sigh and turn to Dad, as though he could somehow help by erasing what had just been said.

Uncle Dusty and Auntie Viv lived right on the main street of the town in funny little cottage next door to St. Mary's, Church of England church. Just outside the back door was a brick domed well. It wasn't really a well, it was a big underground rainwater tank. On one side of the brick dome was a timber frame and a small door about two feet square which was used to access the piping that drew the water out of the tank by means of a hand cranked pump. The door had a hasp and staple with a short piece of fencing wire slipped through it for security.

On the few occasions we went up to see them, Dad would drive us up there in the old Pontiac that had seen better days. When I was smaller I sat in the front between Mum and Dad, but later as I became more fidgety I had to sit in the back with the other two. There we would fight, scream, and bounce up and down to our hearts content. Mum and Dad didn't seem to mind so long as we didn't pester them. Although Mum did sometimes yell out to Win and say "Stop that hollering Win. Your voice is just like a cross cut saw."

Dad would drive with one hand, the other would be leaning out the drivers window, with his fingers curled up over the roof gutter. Mum said it was because he had to hold the roof on if we did more than thirty. I believed that too!

Apparently Auntie Viv was not a well woman, Win told us once in confidence that she had been informed that Auntie had suffered terrible with her insides. I could only imagine that all the pipes in her body had been joined up wrong thus causing her this distress.

It must have been quite serious because one evening after we had come home from school, Mum gathered us all together and told us that Auntie Viv had died the previous night. Death had never touched us children before. We had poked at a bloated and stinking sheep's carcass in Farmer Brooks paddock, and the usual procession of pets from the goldfish all the way up to Rastus the cat had been buried with due ceremony when they could no longer endure our harsh treatment. But they were not real people like Auntie Viv.

Mum cried a lot, cause it was her sister I suppose. Dad didn't joke and laugh quite so much. He did however say "Thank you, love" to Mum at mealtimes which was bit unusual! The three of us meanwhile discussed the whys and wherefores of such an event. It was Win that said there was something terrible about her dying. Jack was sure she had been murdered. For me on the other hand it was all so new I had nothing to say, but took quite a lot in.

Only Mum and Dad went to the funeral. We were dropped off at Laura to stay with all the other children, who were assembled there. We had lots of cousins, six alone belonging to Uncle Eric and Auntie Lorna. Dad often said he didn't know when Uncle Eric had time to go to work as he must spend all his time in bed. I only ever saw him when he was up and dressed though. These cousins were mainly older than us and had organised lots of games and things to do whilst the adults were up at Booleroo, saying 'Goodbye to Vivian', as Mum put it. This confused me somewhat because I was sure they had said she had died. We were collected later and all the way back in the car Mum and Dad didn't say a word, so I guessed they had had another row.

The next weekend Mum got Dad to drive us all back up to Uncle Dusty's place, to give him a hand. The hand consisted of a casserole and a fruit cake.
"It's the least we can do," said Mum.
"And where's my cake this week?" asked Dad, but he got no reply. But I heard him mumble "Thank you very much".
When we got there, Mum set to, organising.
"How you feeling now, George?"
"I'm managing."
"Have you gone back to work yet?"
Uncle Dusty looked up at her and shook his head wearily. Mum turned to us kids and said, "Now off you go outside and play."
As we slipped out the door, the conversation turned to the doctor's opinion and whether Father Weeks had been any help.

The garden was just the same and it wasn't long before we were tearing about as usual. During the afternoon Uncle Dusty had to use the outside toilet which stood in isolation some way from the back door. When he came out I was running over the top of the brick well. Still fastening his trousers he let out a yell and started chasing after me waving his fist. I was petrified.
"Keep off. I don't want you to go near there." he shouted.
I stood still, confused and blurted out, "Why, is Auntie down the well?"
I had never seen a grown up man cry before, and I didn't like it. Uncle Dusty just sat down where he was and bawled his eyes out. I stood there fixed to the spot. Win could see what had happened and ran in to get Mum.

My small mind must have shut out that incident for years, no one ever mentioned it till we were all grown up. Then it was a source of mirth to others but an embarrassment for me......I was day dreaming; Chrissy was saying something.
"Pardon?"
"I said, what's the matter with your eyes? Are you all right?"
"Yes, Thank you very much." I said wiping away a tear.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The letter K

I love the letter K. It is of course the initial letter of my surname. Whether it is a capital or lower case it always says what it is; not like Aa which doesn't know whether it is a tent or a snail! When I started school there were no clues to aid children in their learning but I like the idea of K being the kicking cur! In those days everything was done by rote. Now you have to understand why things are. Arithmetic came easy as it was obvious that 7 eight's was the same as 8 sevens, because I had memorised all the multiplication tables up to 12. The best part of having a name starting with K was that you never got picked on first to present your work to class, even when the teacher reversed the order!

Letters were however different especially when it came to spelling. I used to be quite happy spelling words that I used even the difficult ones like there and their. But getting back to K the sad thing about this letter was that there were so few words starting with K. I liked the idea that may be it was an interloper, a letter that really belonged somewhere else and was an illegal immigrant and imposed itself into English. Sadly this is not true because English is a real stew pot of so many languages that K is no worse than any other. Curiously I never liked W or Q. What a couple of unnecessary letters they are! W in English pinches a couple of U's and gives itself airs. Curiously in French it is double-V, stealing V's instead! Q on the other hand takes lots of words that could be spelt with a K, which in my mind is crime, and sides with U sounding like a W to create a pathetic list of English words. Get rid of them both I say.

Why is K so good you will ask? Well for a Kaleidoscope of reasons really. For a start it is King sized, acts like a Knight and Knits in well with other letters. It has great Kudos, you can eat it in Kale, it can jump like a Kangaroo, it can make china with Kaolin, you can stuff a cushion with Kapok, it is good in defense with Karate, you can travel on rivers in a Kayak, you can eat a Kebab. Keys will keeps you safe, when you marry you can have Kids, and all your family are your Kith and Kin. Your kids can fly a Kite, you can eat Kippers which may be cut with a Knife in the Kitchen. When you Knock on a door you can open it with a Knob. Now ladies why not colour your eyelids with Kohl? Do you want a pet? Then have a Kitten.

Now you may think I am a bit Kinky about K but with all this effort I feel quite Knackered so I will blow you a Kiss and go and have a Kip.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

My Source


For a number of years now I have been interested in family history. When I was much, much younger my family consisted of the usual connections of parents, siblings, grandparents, aunties and uncles and a plethora of cousins. I never ever thought about great grandparents although I could recall when I was quite small, and reluctant to walk far, having to trudge uphill and tiring my little spindly legs to visit a great grandmother. I have no recollection of talking to her or kissing her or even eating a slice of cake which undoubtedly was offered. Yet now so many years later I feel a little ashamed that this link to the past, my source so to speak is not clearer in my mind. There were other great-grandmothers of course and I have a photo of one on my mothers side when we visited her a little before the Second World War. She looks as old as I feel now!

But things have changed now. I can remember asking my parents a bit about their grandparents and they knew so little. I know so much more than them! It is so much easier to trace all those forebears through birth, death and marriage records, delve into their lives though census returns and even discover past deeds and misdeeds through recorded history. This amazing resource gives us a wonderful chance to glimpse into the past and relive the lives of our long gone relatives. It is sad yet uplifting to celebrate the birth of children, weep at their early deaths, watch newlyweds set up home and get frustrated when they disappear only to find that they have moved on to seek their fortunes elsewhere. There are some that have died in the Poor House and others who were on the Titanic. There are some who were convicts transported to Australia and some who achieved their 15 minutes of fame in art, music, sport, on ocean liners and in the wars.

Occasionally photographs are discovered and I must confess I fell immediately in love with the innocent allure of one of my wife's relatives who looked so beautiful when she was wed before the First World War. My own grandparents on my mother's side curiously never married, possibly the only relatives in the past who failed to do so. Apparently they managed to find the money for the marriage licence but thought it would be better spent at the pub; well the story goes!

So the past has been untangled, fascinating discoveries made and through it I am proud to have tracked much of the source of my and my wife's family. Do we go back far? Well of course we do. Either we have a direct line to Adam or to the primeval ooze but as for actual records there are but a few names from the 17th Century. In doing this research it has made me glad to be the result of these ancestors efforts and achievements, their pain and joy and despite their faults and of mine it is wonderful to have such a colourful past.

Photo of my Great Grandmother Hannah Titheridge c 1939

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Memory of Sonseeahray


For some reason I am hanging on to an old video (yes a VHS) recording of a film that impressed and inspired me in the early 1950's. I hadn't been able to find commercial DVD of it in Australia so I converted the old format to DVD later. The quality is however terrible but is suffices for the purpose of jogging my memory from time to time. It is my little time machine to take me back sixty years.
The film was one of the first westerns that showed the wild west from the Indians point of view. The film was of course “Broken Arrow” with James Stewart, Jeff Chandler and most importantly Debra Paget. Whilst it was on in the “Palace” cinema in our small country town in England I managed to see it twice. The second time I sat it through twice as it was a continuous showing cinema even though I had to endure the dreadful and forgettable second feature and of course the obligatory newsreel. In the film James Stewart saves the life of an injured Apache youth and falls in love with Sonseeahray a highly desirable Indian maiden and eventually marries her. He brokers a deal between the Apaches and the settlers for a lasting peace however some renegade whites start a fight at which Sonseeahray is killed.

Needless to say as a fifteen year old I fell in love with the Indian maiden Sonseeahray and even managed to get a clip from the film stock showing her in her ceremonial head dress as my dad knew the projectionist at the cinema. Not long after I noticed a girl at school who in my mind looked exactly like the nubile Indian maid and I was so inspired that I plucked up enough courage to approach her and told her that she looked like Debra Paget in the film. Unfortunately I got a rather negative reaction.


Now those of you whose memories are long may recall that Debra Paget starred alongside Elvis Presley in “Love Me Tender” and also featured in many other movies of the 1950”s & 1960’s. Her brown eyes in Broken Arrow reverted to their natural blue in that film.
Now the interesting part of this youthful nonsense is that many many years later I was able to link up with the girl at school who I compared with the Indian maid through the British web site “Friends Reunited” and she did remember my chat up line, and we have been corresponding ever since.

You can find a video of Debra Paget as Sonseeahray on YouTube but try as I might I can't insert the link! Just search for Debra Paget: One little, two little, three little Indians. The link is:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpJPCsqiQ4M

Photo: Promo card for the film "Broken Arrow"

Sunday, July 4, 2010

What did you do in the war? What Me?



I used to say I had a difficult childhood but that wasn't true. I only thought I did. Having been born just a few years before World War 2, I was expected to achieve a pigeon pair for my parents after my brother had been born two years previously. A girl was expected and in those days there were no tests to check to see if that might be the case. Thus I was already named Judith and proved to be a minor disappointment. I grew up to be a ‘whimp’ which clearly I was well fitted for as I whimpered a great deal in those early years. Some of the tears were quite normal but others were encouraged by my older brother who clearly thought I might steal some of the favours previously bestowed on him.
Our Dining Room table had the corners cut off so that there would be less likelihood of little heads at that height bumping into them. I didn’t realise for many years that it was all to no avail as the damage had already been done. My brother had encouraged me to climb from the chair to the tabletop then removed the chair and exited the room leaving me to find my own way down. Which I did bruising my head and this encouraged Dad to get his saw into action when my brother ‘explained’ what happened.
I wasn’t the only whimp in the street; little Barry Foster was far more expert than me. When he was upset he would go and sit in the middle of the road and cry for all to see him. Occasionally some dupe would pander to his needs and comfort him but as the trick continued he tended to cry alone for a few minutes then go back indoors. I must explain the road we lived on was rarely used by vehicles other than delivery vans and the surface was so bad nothing could travel at any more than walking speed. Almost nobody owned a car and those that did had it on chocks in the shed or under cover for the ‘duration.’ The duration was a British expression meaning for while the war lasts. Thinking about it now I think it was a wonderful word showing that we Brits were going to endure the war at whatever cost, which of course we did.
More strife came for me whenever Mum would say “Go out and play together”. Now it is true we did that occasionally but my brother thought I was a drag especially if it interfered with playing with his real friends. I would tag along behind the bigger boys and my brother would turn round and push me to the ground or into the stinging nettles to show that I was not wanted. Now please do not take pity on me all this treatment was a great hardening exercise for me. This was especially the case when Ivan from a street nearby played with me in the meadow at the bottom of our road. Ivan was in my class at school and his uncle had been stationed in Africa for part of the war and returned home with various souvenirs. One of these souvenirs was an assegai which as everyone knows is a spear with a furry tassel and a very sharp iron spear tip.
Ivan brought the spear out to play with one day probably with no one else aware of it. We each had a go and as all we did was throw it away from us, Ivan decided his next go was to throw it at me. Seeing the spear on the way I turned and ran and luckily it only hit me in the right calf. The wounded adversary, me, limped to his house where his mother attempted to tend to my wound then sent me home. My own mother was furious, ripped off the unsatisfactory dressing and applied one which was deemed more suitable. I wasn’t allowed to play with Ivan for a week or so. I had no tetanus shot, and no visit to the doctor for stitches. We were made of sterner stuff in those days.
I still have the scar, a small square white mark on my calf and for some reason I am quite proud of it. It was my war wound albeit inflicted by friendly fire, but it was more than that too. It was my rite of passage, or perhaps my hardening for the real world. From that moment on I became less of a whimp and more of an individual able to take on all comers...well, at least stand up for myself for the duration of my life and not to be surprised when a friend stabbed you in the back!

Illustration from http://www.thecimmerian.com

Sunday, June 27, 2010

When Tarzan passed me by

Curiously I do not aspire to be someone else. This of course has not always been the case. Many years ago when Johnny Weismuller was Tarzan at the flicks I desperately wanted to be him. He was everything that a ten year old boy aspired to. His skills at handing animals, the jungle and Jane were a terrible obsession for me.

What more could a young boy want to be but a man for all seasons, battling foes, deadly creatures and best of all being admired by the nubile Jane.

Apart from taking the dog for a walk at home or avoiding the cat swinging a clawed paw at me life was pretty dull. Where we lived in the outskirts of a small town not 40 miles from London the wildest animals seen would be the squirrels in the trees or a wily fox slinking along in the half light.

Just to make matters worse at that time I couldn't even swim. Tarzan swam with enormous energy at an amazing speed, as of course he could in real life, having been an Olympic champion.

My brother and I often attempted to build a tree house, filching our father's tools, nails and pieces of wood to construct a miserable platform that fell to bits because we were just not competent enough. We competed of course as to whom was actually Tarzan and I being the smaller, weaker one never had a chance.

Generally, our efforts were doomed because we had no sense of quiet. Everything we did was noisily performed. Wild animals kept very clear of us and so did all the potential Janes who hearing our whooping calls would certainly make off in the opposite direction.

As adolescence came so the need to climb trees and fashion bows and arrows left me and even my other aspiration of being a steam train driver waned when a friendly driver invited us up onto the foot plate of his engine one day when we admiring his fire breathing monster. Exciting it was but dirty, so dirty in fact that even a grub like me shrank back in horror at his greasy black hands and his face covered in soot.

So as the years pass I am glad that my time has not been spent wishing I was someone else. However, I should be glad to be remembered as a character, hero and villain in my own life that my children and grandchildren can look back upon with awe and respect as I jumped over the logs in the river of life.