Wednesday, April 6, 2016



VAN Morrison, in his cover with THEM of the John Lee Hooker song ‘Don’t Look Back’, sings:
If I could call back
All those days of yesteryear
I would never grow old
And I'd never be poor
But darling, those days are gone.
Stop dreaming
And live on in the future
But darling, don't look back...’

Of course, he fails to take his own advice, always, it seems, singing about the glories of THE PAST when he lived near Cypress Avenue, on Hyndford Street. For some of us, there will be glories of the past. For me, it was visiting the cousins in Bundoora, waiting for the parents and brother of your first love to go to bed, my football team’s first successes, Enid Blyton, family holidays to Cooma and the like, the first big trip overseas to places like Cornwall and Paris.

But for now, I am in the mood to think about the glories of THE FUTURE. In my mind I have mapped out a plan. The future will be dotted with lots of little highlights that bring memories of nightclubs and working life and raising little kids to shame.

In the future my children will obviously no longer be children. They will be fantastically useful adults who will have children of their own who will provide me with boundless pleasures. M will ring out of the blue and ask if J and I can feed her two little girls, give them a bath, and read to them. During the week I will have caught a tram to Carlton, visited Readings bookstore, and bought them the new shiny picture story book about a red dragon or a purple unicorn that everyone is talking about. It will be really something to be 80 or 90 and have two sweet little kids holding their breath, fascinated, by my aged, husky voice and my long practised ability to adopt character voices.

Then a couple of days later S will drop in- my kids who are now adults will never ring first-and I will be just getting out of bed because of a new habit of sleeping in, and she will make us both a strong coffee with the sparkly machine she bought us for Christmas. She will seek some advice and hang onto my words of wisdom and kiss my whiskered face in gratitude. We will hold hands like we have always done and take a book outside, sitting beneath the oak tree as red and golden leaves of autumn fall around at our feet. She will tell me about how her boys are getting on and where her philanthropic work is heading.

Some mornings I will wake early and read by the natural light coming through the bay windows. I will marvel at the blue light splashed on the walls from the reflection of the stained glass. J’s hair will look soft and wavy, all grey cascading across her pillow. There will inevitably be either our Afghan puppy or Persian kitten at the foot of the bed making my toes warm and numb. Sometimes, on the street, I will hear early morning conversations amongst neighbours, kids getting ready for school, bells tingling, the comforting crunch of gravel. We will know and treasure all our neighbours. They will visit, like our kids, willy-nilly, and if I am busy tinkering with something, J will attend to their needs.

After breakfast I will sigh deeply and read the paper (still shunning the electronic version), and the morning will melt into the afternoon. Eggs, milkshakes, crosswords, maybe a bit of gardening, but not too much. J will go outside and wrap wire around her tomatoes, and splash a bit of paint below the orchard wall. Watching her labour, I will sit in my great armchair and think wistfully of England, planning another visit in my head, thinking about our last visit, wondering if the lanes of Much Wenlock look the same, the tidy brown cottages of Bibury in the Cotswolds, the black, black graves in the grounds of the Bronte parsonage, the charming low ceilings of pubs like The Feathers in Ludlow, the stone jetty at Mevagissey in Cornwall…

Whoops, it is 3:30 already. J has come in to have a shower. Some books have arrived from ABE books in the mail. I am reminded of my goal- to read one Henry James novel a fortnight until I have finished. I go back to bed with toast and an orange juice and knuckle down with my Afghan and a first edition of The Ambassadors, from James’ third period. I have nearly finished. I drift and fall asleep, and awaken, and drift, and fall asleep and awaken. It is suddenly 10 o’clock and I have finished. My body feels strangely alive and tingly. J is still up, watching television, as I ponder what I will read next.

It is late but I am not tired. I put my dressing gown on and pour a generous whisky and escape the television and wander into the billiard room. I practise slotting balls, preparing for the billiard night that is coming up here in this very room with four or five fellas from the neighbourhood. We all enjoy our whisky and chat about politics and our sports. Tonight, though, I am gloriously alone, pocketing balls, and listening to Mahler’s 5th symphony, the Adagietto, from the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I am transcended. It effortlessly propels my limbs around the table. I’m not sure if it is the whisky, my age, or the music, but I am sighing deeply, then suppressing a sob, in gratitude, for everything good that old age brings. 


CMS said...

Love this. So rich in the simple pleasures of life. Thanks for writing and sharing this. I hope your life moves towards this future in every way possible.

harrison said...

Thank you- maybe you come and play pool and listen to Mahler with me- we can both wear a smoking jacket and talk about the dropping standards in the youth of the day.

Roll Cage Mary said...

So...were you visiting your cousins in Larundel or Mont Park?

I grew up in Reservoir, caught tadpoles in the shadows of Pentridge,
was unhappily married in the crevasse of Pascoe Vale South and me dad
was in the RAF with Gerald Hughes.

And like Gerry's brother Ted, me dad had a Mad Cow's disease and I
survived me mam's attempt to top herself. Talk about the drop-kick
standards of parents. Back in the daze.

harrison said...

Mmmm, interesting timing- I just found out that Gerald Hughes died the other day. Went looking for him once on the streets of Mornington as in Mornington Peninsula- I didn't really know where to look. Sorry to hear about all the family problems.