Childhood memories


On our return trip the ships propeller hit a sandbank in the Suez Canal, bending the propeller shaft. We limped to Bombay, where we spent three weeks with the ship in drydock while the propeller shaft was replaced. Again I have dim memories of the gangplank leading to the ship.

When we returned to Australia we moved into a rented house in Fitzgibbon Crescent, Caulfield. It was a Californian bungalow style, with a wide brick arch over the front veranda. There was an elaborate steel mast for a radio aerial in the front garden, and the back garden was somewhat overshadowed by a large pine tree next door. I remember looking up into the pine tree on windy days, and the strange sensation that the tree was falling over, as the clouds moved past it.

The radio mast was held up by wire guys, set at an angle, and one of these provided the trigger for an incident which displayed my father at his worst, and, I discovered later, had a disastrous effect on my brother Ric's mental development. We had been playing in the front garden, and he was chasing me when I tripped over one of the guys. I didn't think anything of it, but my father accused Ric of having pushed me. Ric denied this vigourously, and every time he did father thrashed him again. Eventually Rick gave in -- just to end the torture -- and admitted that he had pushed me, whereupon he was thrashed yet again.

I vaguely remember the incident, but I didn't think Ric had done anything untoward, and I could not understand why my father was making such a fuss about it. Toward the end of his life Ric reminded me of this incident, and it became apparent that it had been festering in his mind for virtually the whole of his life.

The back fence of the block was covered with a creeper (a species of Tecoma, I think) which my father vehemently hated, though I have no idea why. Anyway one day I was practising with the secateurs, and amused myself cutting through the main stem close to the root. It seemed perfectly rational to me -- if he hated it so much surely he would be glad to have it gone, but when he noticed a few weeks later that it had died, and fathomed the reason, I got what seemed to me to be a totally irrational walloping.

 © Roger Riordan 2004-2019

Caulfield before the war

Fathers irrational rage