Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Back Home in Sydney

Back Home in Sydney and Mum and Dad

Coming home sometimes can be an anti climax, other times it can be so exciting,seeing family and friends who are the ones that you share your experiences with and are the ones who judge the changes that have taken place in you. This time was a bit of both,my parents have always been supportive of my travels and I have regularly (from my point of view) written to them and updated them on what transition I was going through and back grounding them on where I was and how I had got there.They were always my first contact, normally meeting me at the wharves, when I returned in '69 after five years away - this time in '79, ten years later, at the airport.

I had been away for over twelve months and a lot had gone down in that time and several friends had been to see Mum and Dad, mainly from Bali.So they were aware that I had had a motor bike accident and written myself off. They never belaboured any act that I did, they just hoped that I would be ok and that life would be kind to me and that I would be kind to myself.

They were always interested in my plans and dreams, rarely commenting in a advisatorial manner or dictatorial fashion, just listening and encouraging.Their experiences were not of the entrepreneurial ilk that I gravitated towards. Dad was English as were his parents, ex farming and army, who were early pioneers of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.

Dad was only in Australia for eight months, before joining up and serving with the 2/5th Field Regiment in WW2 in the Middle East in action in Egypt and Syria and then Borneo and New Guinea for six combat years. His expertise was 'social service' and when he retired from a senior government position he became a honoury director for 27 years with Access Industries that set up workshops for the handicapped.

Pat and Ken, as they were known to their friends,met outside the State Theatre during '39, where Mum worked as an usherette. After Dad had joined up, after being inspired by Churchill" to do the right thing".They both spotted each other, Dad was walking past and Mum was at the entrance, in Market Street - welcoming customers into the State Theatre. Dad after walking back and forth a couple of times, got up the courage to ask her out and to his surprise, she said "yes". Mum said that she liked his voice, -- no wonder he went to one of the best schools in England, Palmers School.They married within three months of meeting each other and then Dad was off to fight the enemy and nine months later in November '41, I popped into the picture.

After Dad and Mum married, Dad was posted with the the rest of the 2/5th Field Regiment to the Middle East and Mum pregnant with me moved in with her sister, Laureen and her husband Rowley Dowling into their house in 76 Banks Street, North Sydney where I was born.We lived with them in a three bedroom terrace, and their two sons Barry and Rowley jr  for five years.

In the Middle East, Dad was to have met with his brother Dennis in Cairo.Dennis was eighteen months younger than Dad and from all accounts they were as "thick as thieves'. He had joined the British 8th Army as an officer in Montgomery's Tank Corp.But they never met up, as Uncle Den was killed in action fighting Rommel's Afrika Korps in the desert.I can only wonder at the sadness Dad must have suffered at the loss of his brother being so close and yet so far, I never had the opportunity to discuss this with Dad - how he felt, the despair of it all, in fact their were so many life and death situations that Dad must have experienced and I never got round to talking about,the diggers were like that - they kept it to them selves.Dad did mention that he was offered officer training and on talking to some of the wiser heads in his regiment he declined, as now a father, young officers lives in active combat were short lived and Dad said one of his his main prerogatives was to stay a- live and re join his family.

When Dad returned it was not for long, as his regiment was stationed in Atherton in Far North Queensland for jungle training in preparation for fighting the Japanese in New Guinea and Borneo.

 Mum became a camp  follower as did I and a lot of the wives, staying in billets their husbands arranged for them in towns like Ingham and Innisfail and seeing their husbands on the weekends where going to the movies was about the only activity available. I remember, I must have been about three, being hoisted on the back of one of Dad's mates shoulders and being piggy backed, whilst we walked it seemed for miles into one of the towns and given a watch to play with to keep myself occupied on those shoulders during the walk.That's my only memory, Mum had many, oh how they must have loved each and the heart break they must have suffered when saying good bye the second time round. To see these great young blokes, all in their prime of life, having to go and off to fight the Japs, never knowing if they would see each other  again. They were young, Dad would have been 22 and Mum 23. Knowing as they would that, what was ahead was more killing, fighting, being wounded.Then  coming to terms with  fighting and living  in the swamps, mangroves and jungles of these tropical hell holes ... how brave they were.Then when they returned home, they all were suffering from Malaria, dysentery, berri- berri and every other tropical disease which some never really recovered from.

It must have been so hard for Dad to readjust with a family and living in close quarters with another family of four, as they did in the front bedroom with me in a cot. I know Dad tried for a soldiers settlers grant, as the reason he came to Australia was to experience, living on the land, that he did when he as interned to a farm in Macksvile, before he joined up.His application was to no avail so he enrolled and went to Sydney Uni trying to do a degree in Economics at night, but threw that in after twelve months. He joined the Public Service soon after returning as he needed a job and ended up staying there becoming a Director of Social Services in his retirement. Mum went out and worked most of the time and the two of them saved hard and bought a block of land in 41 Richardson Street Lane Cove where they built their own house. 

Most weekends we would spend on the block of land, Dad digging trenches for the foundations and Mum helping where she could.When I was six I was sent to Newington College and started in first class at Wyvern House, the prep school. Dad would have been happy for me to go to a local school but Mum was a lot more aspirational than Dad and she wanted me to have a private school education like him.. God bless her.

Mum came from a big family of three sisters and three brothers and were brought up by their mother, Pearl.Mum's father was an itinerate and seemed to be the black sheep in the family and was not discussed I vaguely remember seeing him, though rarely. he was like a shadow , there for a moment and then gone. They came originally from Eden in the South Coast of NSW and settled in Balmain. They were of Irish stock Mum's maiden name was Day and Pearl's was Newlands.

So it was to our house in Lane Cove where I came back to, but not for long as they had sold it and bought a home unit in Lindfield

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful story your adventures thus far have been........And your parents sound marvellous......interested and encouraging as they were in your dreams and plans.
    I met you once at the Grape and who would have though so much lay ahead,