A few months ago someone said to me, “is there anything you haven’t done?” I still don't know if this was a flattering remark, or the words of someone sick and tired of hearing my tedious tales of exploits on the Amazon River, or Antarctica, or my years working at the Brewery, and so on. I think it was probably the latter, and it's true that I have been known on occasions to ruminate about my salad days. They called it swinging the lantern when I was at sea and I'm a wonderful example of the older I get, the better I was.
Sooner or later my mind is going to slow down, some will say the process has already started, and my recall won’t be what it once was. So before these tales disappear forever, I have begun to write a few things about my life.
The amazing thing about writing about one's past is that as the words start to form on the screen in front of me, a state of anamnesis sets in and those obscure memories crystallise and de-pixilate to a point where I again become that 25 or that 20 year old person and the memories and the images become as clear as though they were happening now. It truly is a most invigorating and stimulating exercise.
If Albert Facey had not got there first about thirty years ago with his well-loved story of the same name, a fitting title might have been A Fortunate Life, because when I think about some less fortunate than I, that’s surely what it has been. Now I'm stuck with the title Ten Pound Poms. That was going to be the name of just one of the chapters, but that's what happens when you put the name in the wrong box, but I'm beginning to like it now so it's staying.
Nevertheless, I really have had a fortunate life. My father used to say, it’s always better to be born lucky than to be born rich which is just as well because we certainly were not born rich. I didn’t have to fight in any wars like my grandparents did, and like my father would have done if the Government of his day had not kept him working in an essential service. I managed to avoid the war in Vietnam War, unlike some of my contemporaries many of whom were changed forever – those that survived at all.
I grew up in a country town where the weather was always great and even the rain was warm. I learned to swim in a local creek and rode my bike on dirt roads to little swimming holes with names like Freshwater Creek and Crystal Cascades. I survived my youth certain of my own immortality, behaving like a galah on a motor-cycle or riding in cars with equally rash friends. We were lucky to survive while others not as fortunate lost limbs, or their senses and sometimes worse. After adolescence, I was able to spend most of my working life in full employment generally doing the type of work I enjoyed. Then the day came, when I met a fine woman who soon after became my bride and I became an us person instead of a me person. That pretty lady is still with me today, 36 years later and she still gives me more support and encouragement than I could ever possibly deserve.
In 1973 I went for six weeks holiday to England with my father – his first visit back to the land of his birth since he had emigrated to Australia nearly 20 years earlier. The six weeks turned into nine years and it wasn’t until 1982 that I returned to Australia with a wife and two wonderful children.
I don’t know how many are going to read this self-indulgent ramble and where it's going to go. I have no intention of starting at the beginning and finishing at the end. If I want to write about something that happening last week instead of last century I will. I know that I have a virtual container-load of anecdotes and epigrams (just ask my family or the people I have worked with over the years) and I'm determined to get them all out there, so stand by.
I am hoping that one day my grandchildren and their children (should we be blessed with such gifts) might wonder (as I do about my own ancestors), what sort of a life we had and with whom it was shared. I hope that this will provide at least some of the answers.
So here we go and if I may steal a frequent line from Baron Bragg of Wigton, I hope you enjoy the programme.