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My father

 

Yes, my mother and father were separated.  He had another woman.  My sister Beryl, three years my senior, knew all about it and one day she saw our father sitting on Merrylands Railway Station with his girlfriend.  She 'saw red' and warily snuck up on them and then with all the force and fury she could muster she delivered an almighty kick to the woman’s shin.  The woman screamed in agony and Beryl took off at a full rate of knots.  Nothing ever came of it.

My father was a Kiwi and his father fought in the boxer Rebellion in China in 1901.  His regiment sacked (looted) a temple in Peking, called the Temple of 10,000 Years and he brought home many priceless (in today’s terms) artefacts of which we had quite a few on the walls of our lounge room and in the cupboard drawers of our house at 21 Lockwood St Merrylands which my father built himself, as I did my own.

He separated from my mother when I was very young so I don’t really know all that much about him. He first met my mother on one of the many ferries commuting around Sydney Harbour.  She ‘accidentally’ dropped her handkerchief and he swooped on it.  Eventually they got ‘married’ but in point of fact as was later found out they were not really married at all because he was a bigamist, which of course made Beryl, Lucy and me illegitimate, or bastards, whichever term you prefer to use. 

When I was very young mum took me down to Circular Quay where we met his mother; dressed in black from her hat to her shoes as was common to see in those times. We went to her house at the Rocks.  They must have lived there for a long time because my father as a child attended Fort St School also at the Rocks. 

My father was an unemployed marine engineer, a very keen yachtsman and an expert cricketer.  He tried to teach me how to bat but every time I tried to hit the ball I got out for a duck which saddened my dad immensely.  He would go inside to mum and say “the boy hasn’t got it in him Sarah. He just hasn’t got it in him”. 

One Monday night when he came to see us (he always came on a Monday night, he had the habit of tapping on the side window of the house to let us know he was coming) he presented me with a magnificent yacht about ¾ metre long.  It had taken a whole year of his spare time to build it and it was a masterpiece.  It must have been worth a lot.  I did sail it a few times but showed very little interest in it.  It was not my scene, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. 

I was gun mad, always have been.  At age 10 I was always at my mum and dad to buy me an air-rifle but they just couldn’t afford it and had to go without.  There was a boy in the next street who had an old worn out one worth next to nothing who wanted to sell it and my parents couldn’t even afford that, so I said to the kid with the air-rifle, ‘would he swap the gun for the boat?’  Of course he said yes, only an imbecile would have said no.  But if an imbecile was involved at all it was me.  Of course I asked mum first and she said “do what you want to do, son”.  The deal was struck and I became the proud owner of an old rusty worn out air-rifle.  Didn’t I give those sparrows and starlings hell!  When mum told my father I made it my business not to be there.  But she told me he said “it’s the last thing I will ever make for that boy” (love’s labour lost). 

Because I did not see my father very much I had an almost estranged relationship with him, it was most unfortunate for me because I think a young boy needs his father sometimes, the same as a girl can relate to her mother.  Also I think I needed a bloody good hiding sometimes, to boot.  But I can honestly say I don’t think I grew up any the worse for it.  That’s about all I can tell you about dad and his family. 

 

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