Monday, 25 January 2016

Thursday, 7 January 2016





A gripping family saga involving love, heartache, war, crime and retribution. The share market crash in October 1987 affected the lives of many New Zealanders. None more than that of Ted Starling, a childhood immigrant carried to those shores in 1946 in the wake of World War 2. Ted was ten years old when this story began and his father Staff Sergeant Eddie Starling was engaged with the 18th Battalion of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force combating the might of Rommel’s armour in North African desert. Eddie had survived the ravages of Dunkirk, but suffered severe injury in the wake of Rommel’s retreat. His shell-shocked body was transported in its amnesic condition to Auckland, New Zealand where a new life with a new identity was established. Sixty years of passion and intrigue, heartbreak and devotion are exposed as a father and a son grow together as New Zealanders to form an inseparable relationship. Their story crosses five continents and five decades to culminate in a powerful, well planned and particularly personal act of retribution. Young Teddy Starling had been distressed by the death of his mother in Flying Bomb attack that destroyed their home in South London, but was compensated when reunited with his father, thought dead in the African desert. Teddy Starling the boy grew to Ted Starling the man and life was good for the Starlings in Auckland. Eddie’s time in uniform in France and the desert is well documented as is Ted’s, as he matured to serve his two years for the queen in her khaki uniform. Exciting things happened in Egypt that re-established old relationships. Out of uniform once more Ted dedicated his life to that of his father and newly found friends in New Zealand. As a successful businessman Ted travelled to Sydney where he was is devastated by the sudden death of his father while away. On his return Ted decided his father, Eddie, had lost his life in suspicious circumstances and Ted’s one reason to live was to expose the one responsible. Ted’s plan is powerful and intrinsic, but became frustrated when he learned he had a terminal heart condition. He was advised his life expectancy was not sufficient to bring his adversary before the courts. His endeavours were further disrupted when the 1987 stock market crash claimed the life of the man he despised. Ted Starling recognised this death as fait accompli and now alone in the world he was satisfied his life after fifty years was at an end. Now the inexplicable happened; Ted fell in love. Dawn Graham, stunninhgly beautiful, ten years Ted’s junior and alarming rich and successful in her own right was smitten by Ted and failed to understand his reasons for rejecting her. Their story is a golden thread running through this family saga which is filled with delightful characters, visits colourful locations in Australia and New Zealand and explores local culture. It describes in detail The Bringing Down of the Hawk, how and why. It is a tale of love and laughter, of dedication and loyalty, pain and passion that reaches from London’s East End through to the wilds of New Zealand’s North Island to domicile in Auckland City. It lingers in the outback of Australia’s Snowy Mountains, the bustle of Paddy’s Markets and the fearful iced terrain of Mount Erebus. It is a powerful family saga in which life and death fail to discriminate. 

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

And When Did You Last See Your Father?

      The decision had been made. The family home of forty years was too big for a family now depleted to two seniors. It had to be sold; something smaller to accommodate slower moving bodies and aching limbs.  A decision like that was not difficult  to make. It was based purely on logic and ignored  emotion as it accepted   the gardens  were gaining the upper hand in the challenge laid down by mother nature four decades before. It also accepted  four bedrooms and two lounges  were now an over indulgence for two people for whom  greater satisfaction was now achieved in the mind rather than from material possessions. This was the easy aspect of the decision. 
     There was a harder side.  A side which involved the tangle of emotion that defied the logic. A side which lured a mother, now a grand mother, into a vacated room  to stand gazing at a wall, or  photograph to listen to a song on the radio that used to rock a cradle thirty years before. Also involved, the cloud of nostalgia which could  overwhelm a father, a grandfather, in the reclusive retreat  of his  workshop when ambushed by a set of kid’s roller skates, a thirty year old cricket bat with a split handle, or a peppered dartboard whose colours had faded  with time from prime.
     Four bedrooms and four sons, now gone, but still close on any day, be it at the end of a phone line, or the residue of a screech of brakes on the driveway which could erupt through the  doorway accompanied by a gaggle of grand children to turn the peace of a Sunday  afternoon into a blessing of disruption. Children who fill the house with laughter. Children who forever turn a house into a home.
     Too much land, too many rooms and an excess of furniture which had endured the years and become, part of the furniture? Definitely time to move on. Thus  it becomes, out with the old and in with the new. Yes, in a moment of strong resolve it has been  decided to be rid  of everything  when the move to the city apartment becomes imminent and under a cloud of resigned bravado the process begins. The home is sold and the move is on.
     In the weeks leading up to settlement the family home is the subject of a  startling transformation as items of furniture are claimed by kin and disposed of through various outlets such as garage sales and newspaper advertisements. The rooms  are slowly emptied of material possessions and  gradually each  adopts a hollow atmosphere, a sad echo.  Pictures vanish from walls and regular indentations in carpeted floors command attention where double beds  and treasured  lounge suites once stood. Through it all the patriarch clings firmly to the legend of his leather arm chair. Some things are sacred.
     With a couple of days to go to settlement  the move is already complete and the  new stepping stone to the future has been discriminately furnished with a selection from the latest ranges of bedroom, lounge and dining room suites. This has been a scathing  exercise with the  surrender of  each treasured item, a relic from the years, being a strong root  wrenched from  firm family soil. Yet, as the family moves away it is the family which holds everything together.
     After  three score years and ten of living, the every day lessons of family life have been well noted and more has been learned than was ever taught. The home is now empty with the exception of one remaining item which has been the focal point for the family throughout the years. One could be forgiven for thinking the television set claimed the pride of this place, but this was never to be the case and never would be in this household.
     The  dining room table of satin mahogany with its six chairs belies its forty years service. As the meeting place for a growing family at the beginning and end of each day the test of time has furnished satisfying results. Around this table  the problems of the world were resolved on a regular basis; the world being the birthright of  four sons  and their parents and their  circle of  fellowship. This is where problems were shared, openly discussed, problems were halved and boys were nurtured into men. The common mistakes of six lifetimes  were made and analysed by a family around this table. The delights of victories were celebrated by a family,  around this table. Births and birthdays, anniversaries and Christmases, each was ingrained into its polished timbers. Its fine grain had absorbed the laughter as well as the tears. 
     More learned than was ever taught -  by four sons often considered to be privileged to have the luxury of two parents as they moved into, through and out the other side of puberty with the opportunity to make the mistakes  made by all, while able to enjoy the discipline and guidance of those who cared. These were a father’s children, a mother’s brood.  This was their  family and the responsibility was theirs, not that of the state. To the one at the head of the table, one of two beings  who had formed a union forty eight years before, one who had moulded that union into a family of six,  the reasons for the decline in society, the increased crime rate, man’s inhumanity to man  became clearer each day.      
     Seventy years experience of observing the quality of family life deteriorating in the flesh pots of the twentieth century  had earned the old man an opinion; a voice in the wilderness There were insufficient dining room tables out there in a crumbling society which clutched reproachfully  at the hollow straws of social welfare.
     Nothing was more clear to a man who had run his own household under a set of rules which rewarded hard work and self respect while emphasising the importance of an individual taking full responsibility for ones actions. The media advertised the fact at every opportunity. There were too many one parent families and an inflammatory shortage of round-dinner-table conferences. There was  a strong reliance of a bottom heavy society on the handouts of a welfare state with latchkey children being reared in a TV dinner situation often in the absence of that one parent. There was a need for more voices in that wilderness out there.
     This is an opinion. An older man has earned it. The breakdown of the family unit sees boys becoming men at fourteen years of age when, having skipped important years of their youth, they reach out for  and indulge in the cake icing of adult hood. It sees girls involved in unplanned motherhood  at irresponsible early ages when  they themselves have not yet shed the golden husks of childhood. Any politician, or person in an influential position who observes this situation and elects to turn a cheek with a  politically correct excuse can bear a modicum of blame. But why lay blame? If one is to take full responsibility, one doesn’t lay blame. They assess a situation and set about correcting it. If we carry on doing what we are doing we get more of what we already have.
     The break down of the family unit; where does it begin, if at all? Many children born out of wedlock never get to know the discipline of the family dinner table. They never get to hear the words -  “Sit up straight – don’t speak will your mouth full – elbows off the table – wait for your mother to start eating.” All being torturous  disciplines that tend to disappear with the clip under the ear for leaving the soap in the water in the bathroom.  
     From these children  derive the second generation offspring to whom can never be passed in  natural progression the pride of a father reading a school report, or him watching from the touch line a son’s aspirations to achievement at sport.  From these children are formed the families of the twenty first century which resemble  jigsaw puzzles with pieces missing. A sad fact is the pictures will never be complete and many of those in most of those  pictures  will never really know  what those pieces are; and more pieces are easily  lost along the way.
     The flaking family unit : a child is born with the state willing to pick up the bill in the absence of a father, but the state cannot provide and is  not prepared to provide the one vital ingredient important to the  growth of that child; the father, seek him out, make him pay, let him love.  A more dedicated  mother could be heard to say, ‘that’s okay. We don’t need him. I can give my child everything it needs’, however, no one  asks  the child what it needs and if they were to it could never tell. Ask the same child  in twenty years and see what the answer would have been.
     In the case of  parents who have  progressed through the demolition machine of a broken marriage, proud people, responsible people who capitalise on the ludicrous situation of maternity leave  before returning  to full time employment, the break down continues, working away like rust.  Does anyone ask the child who is  dropped off at the crèche by mummy  for an eight hour stint on a regular, or irregular daily exercise,  how it feels about that? The weekly fee for the crèche could easily be half the earnings of mummy for the same period with the payment on the family car, (and in a complete marriage situation the second car), laying claim to a large chunk of the residue. With money not an issue, what is the true cost of this exercise? Ask the child. 
       Just another  chip of paint off the face of the family unit. Would mother rather be working, or at home teaching her daughter to laugh, play and sew, maybe bake a cake, watch her sleep? Ask the child who sees her mother for two hours in the morning and two hours at night, the child who builds a more than equal relationship with the dedicated crèche worker who capitalises on the child’s smiles and needs for eight of   a normal sixteen waking hour day. Some things are more equal than others.
     In the spiralling society of  the twenty first century the old man makes the analogy  of this age being like the cycle of a washing machine. Everything is programmed to work well and the cycle continues unless there is an overload, or an imbalance. When this happens, usually in the last phase of the cycle, everything stops. The signs were always there, yet were ignored. Imbalance?  Overload? Too much, too soon. Probably expecting too much, too soon of a well oiled machine that was designed to do a certain job.
     The signs are there today in a society which continues to  spiral, powered more by greed than need with the imbalance obvious to one who has lived three score years and ten. Time was once when the head of the family worked at his profession while his wife tended to the family home. She cooked the meals, cleaned the house and tended to the children; carried  children. The meals were shared around a communal table and a family was bonded by tradition. It was a tradition not to be scorned, nor to be smirked at. Circumstances altered   with wars and rumours of wars taking the men from the work force and calling the women up to the plate to fulfil tasks more commonly completed by their opposites. These were tasks at which most proved to be adept and were reluctant to relinquish when the tide of time turned.
     With women freed from their apron strings and firmly entrenched in the work force it could have been considered, should have been considered,  how the family unit would be affected. In all probability it was and was discounted,  because of circumstances. The evolution of more people anxious to own their own homes  presented a major factor. This, combined with the freedom with which  the  domestic motor vehicle was  offered to all who could afford, (and the many who could not), and the readily available hire purchase situation increased  the need for the fair sex to work  and converted  many households into two income families. Now desire to work could no longer be confused with the need to work and with the advent of the technical and cyber revolution standards of living  supposedly rose.
     On the surface it would appear the economy had turned to milk and honey, but at what price?  With manipulated statistics it could be shown at any time unemployment was up and unemployment was down. The difference between unemployed and registered unemployed can always be argued as names are transferred from one  list and placed on another for somebody’s benefit. Women selectively  came to fill  work positions  at a more competitive rate of remuneration normally considered  by men folk. As did after-school students  whose practice it was, and is, to hasten to take up posts at the checkouts of  local super markets and other such forms of income while their homework lay cosseted  in satchels in  staff rooms..
     Could it be the imbalance of society has become the norm and requires more attention more often? In an age where millions of dollars are spent daily on the promotion of technology  such as internet and mobile phones, how much communication is there? A hand held phone which fits into the palm and  takes a picture which can be transmitted around the world in seconds is the likely possession of  every other person you pass on the street, yet generally people do just that; pass  on the street with no attempt at communication.
     The mother of three who mans a supermarket checkout from 3 p.m. until midnight no longer does it because she wants to; she is there because she needs to be while her children  are hopefully at home; hopefully. Unsupervised children in a permissive society have an adult world at their finger tips. Multi-channel  television offering a choice between  Black Beauty and Black Emmanuelle doesn’t present much of a challenge to a growing mind. Permissive? Yes, most certainly in a climate where noble leaders have recently considered lowering the level of under age sex. How low can  we get? Are we about to find out in an environment where sex and nudity is no longer a segment of adult hood and is displayed blatantly in many television programmes and retail book outlets; establishing these stores as adult book shops? A choice between Harry Potter  and Harold Robins? You choose. Where, then is the increased quality of life and where does the break down of the family unit start? More importantly where will  it finish?
     The signs are always there The old man has learned much in his three score years and ten. He sees much that others don’t see and he has an opinion He knows the importance of eye contact with those with whom he encounters in every day life and of the  level, yet discreet  soul searching,  mind exposing eye contact he maintains with his offspring. It was never possible for him to always be there, yet he was always a template for them to  shape themselves against,  a yard stick for which they could reach, if he proved to be worthy. A yardstick? A traditional item that stands near and is forever available to keep things in proportion. It was one time made of steel. These days, if to be found it is usually constructed from cardboard, synthetic  materials, often timber. Many people have no use for it at all. They are not aware of the value. The best yardstick is of steel and yes, there is still plenty out there.
          The old man was always known to have an opinion. Most times it went out the door in the way his dining room table would, yet this never prevented  him from offering it to those prepared to listen; and those who many times chose not to listen. He offered it one day to the househusband whose daily constitutional was a jog along the waterfront. In minimal training gear and trainers he’d stopped for a breather on the sea wall. His wife was a legal executive who had returned to the workforce after an extended period of maternity leave. It was a fine arrangement. She earned much more than he had ever dreamed of earning and they were both happy for him to be ‘mother’ while she forged ahead with her career. It was a complete role reversal; an ideal domestic situation.
     Every day, wet, or fine, househusband Wayne covered the eight kilometre return trip along the waterfront with eight month old Wayne Junior  in the three wheeled baby buggy before him. The buggy was built like a world war two tank of tubular steel  with heavy duty  rubber wheels and canvas sides and top,  with  a clear plastic shield should bad weather prevail. The hood was complete with sun visor which was really an observation window for the parent for the child faced away in the direction the parent chose to go. 
      The old man queried the wisdom of the configuration of this chariot of good intention. He suggested  it might serve a better purpose if the child faced the parent that they could observe each other for the entire period of the run, not just at pit stops, and possibly share the bumps and pitfalls of the journey. Wayne shrugged off this idea saying it was fine the way it was. The child  could see where it was going and what did it matter where he had been?   He, the child, liked it that way and he, the father, could see him when ever he needed. It seemed at eight months Wayne junior knew better than the father.
     The run each day was usually completed in an hour and a half, sometimes two hours. There was no hurry. It was a fitness thing; bonding for father and son. Further suggested were the benefits of father and son facing each other. An hour and a half of eye contact could yield the harvest of a heart full  of priceless gurgles and smiles as opposed to a reunion at the end of that time.  The small amount of dribble that is known to emerge from a baby’s mouth could be removed the moment it appeared. and that belch of uncontrollable vomit could be  removed from the lapel before it had chance to harden and become a bigger problem later. Add to that the baby would feel more secure having full sight of the parent, seeing where they’d been together, knowing where they’d been instead of being forced to face the future alone, though knowing the parent was there; or was he? In the present situation Wayne junior would have no idea of where he was going, seemingly alone, and little idea of where he had been.
     Was it Lewis Carol who said,  “If you don’t know where you are going you may as well stay where you are”?  It wasn’t Harold Robins.
     If all fathers and sons could face each other on a regular basis it might well be the pools of vomit that must appear in family life can be dealt with at the time and not be allowed to develop into a bigger problem to involve others. Could it be a reversed configuration of a baby buggy is the thin edge of a wedge of insecurity?
     The nineteenth century artist W F Yeames produced a wonderful painting of the seventeenth century English civil war. It depicted a royalist child being confronted by Cromwell’s parliamentarians. It was the famous Blue Boy being asked, “and when did you last see your father?”
    Is it at all probable that if the same question were asked by our parliamentarians of the boys of today who have made a blue, on a regular basis, it would be a finger in the dyke of the family unit?
     “And when did you last see your father?”
     Better still, “and did you ever see your father?” God forbid it will be two hundred years before someone puts them in the picture.
     The old man has earned an opinion. That’s all it is;  a point of view.




























The Leader of the Band

                                                      
     Seated in the bay window the old man gave a grunt of satisfaction as the grey sedan bubbling with grand children drew to a halt at the kerb. His four sons had done their work well when producing nine off-spring offering an inherent guarantee that he’d never be alone, could never be alone and that loneliness would never be a consideration. Through the line of trees flanking the property he could distinguish unrecognisable shapes as those so young spilled onto the grass verge and raced each other through the gate to the accompaniment of slamming car doors and squeals of delight and anticipation. There were three of them today along with their dad, Martin, the third son.
     ‘You’ve been old for a long time now, granddad,’ had said Paul who was eight and who these days readily provided answers to his own questions which left his grand- father musing. Old man? He thought not, but through the eyes of a child and in a world designed for the young it was a perspective which could be easily appreciated.
     Paul wasn’t among the visitors. They were Martin’s children who charged onto the porch making a bee-line for the kitchen, not failing to get their priorities right. Catherine and Larry were two methodical scheming youngsters whose vision of potted yoghurt and fruit juice in Granny’s frig never faded and they were never to be disappointed..
     Martin carried his third child Rachel on his hip and planted her solidly on the floor of the old man’s room. She was ten months old and almost ready to walk and most certainly able to crawl. As yet she wasn’t sure about her grand father and she eyed him with apprehension from the patch of sunlight that had become her stage as he towered above her in his chair. It had been a stage for so many, but they grew so quickly and predictably moved on in a world of many attractions and distractions.
     Rachel sat straight and her bottom lip trembled as she looked around for her dad who had joined his mother in the kitchen to supervise the raid on the pantry. It wasn’t a hint of a tear. No, they came in a torrent resulting in a protective granny appearing in a flash like a fairy godmother to sweep the baby up into her arms and glance accusingly at her husband.
     ‘What did you do to her, the poor little thing?’ she challenged.
     The old man was used to this, but he went along with the game.
     ‘I didn’t do anything’ he protested. ‘All I did was look at her and she burst into tears.’
     "There’s little wonder" chided the woman. "You’re enough to frighten anyone."
     Husband and wife fully understood each other after forty five years of marriage and as a soothing granny took delight in the consolation of her granddaughter the old man reached across and picked up his guitar. It worked every time. The firm fingers of his workman’s hand ran through a series of chord changes as he gently stroked the strings. The result was predictable and in an instant Catherine skipped into the room and leapt into the solar spotlight to let the dancing begin.
     "Hello, granddad" she beamed.
     Catherine was six and for her this was part of the magic of coming to granddad’s house. She was the one who had started this game five years before when she had begun to totter around the place making her first footprints with each step becoming more certain than the one before. What she did that first day paved the way for a paper chain of events of a similar nature which was to stretch through the genes of a budding generation and sew the seeds of joy in an old man’s heart. There was hardly a time whenever the grandchildren came to visit when the music wouldn’t play and the feet wouldn’t tap; and the hearts wouldn’t swell.
     That first day was a lifetime away. Her lifetime, but she remembered it as clearly as the old man; maybe more clearly for it seemed it had always been a part of her growing. He hadn’t been old for as long then. At the time she was not aware of how badly he played, or how well, but she had been totally magnetised by the beat as the gentle strains of ‘Hey, hey, skip to my loo" fertilised a seed within her and she’d begun to sway. She’d begun to sway and she’d begun to hop, all in time to the music. Thus before she was able to talk, she was able to communicate with a new language, when her entire vocabulary was ‘mumma and dadda’.
     Her actions sent a message to the old man who warmed and upped the tempo slightly and extended the lyrics. ‘I’ll find another one prettier than you . . ..’ and the baby jigged and twirled disjointedly in response to the unleashed rhythm within. Granny took delight in sharing centre stage with her little star and she too clapped and twirled as grandfather eased his way through another verse and yet another.
     As he sang the old man marvelled at the natural rhythm of the child. ‘Where does the music begin?’ was a calm thought that brushed across his mind. Nobody had taught the child this yet there she was moving with ease in time to a language which was international. Where does the music begin?
     The image of his wife dancing and clapping volunteered a part answer for it was a half century almost since they’d first danced together on the sprung floor of a city ballroom and shared the beat of one of the big bands of the day. Ted Heath was the leader of the band that night, the night the old man, a young man then, became the leader of her band. They had shared the beat as they had shared everything else that was theirs as they danced their ways into each others hearts unsuspecting of the harvest of love that would be there to be reaped in their twilight years; and the harvest was a full one; tenfold, a hundred fold.
     Yes, to the old man the answer was apparent. This gift of music, of rhythm, was a legacy of his heritage, passed down through the family genes by his forefathers. He recalled well tales of his own grandfather performing on the boards of the ‘Old Time Music Hall’ as did his father. Song, dance and humour were a strong strain of that heritage which chose to blossom in various forms throughout the different branches of the family tree.
     There was nothing more clear in the scrap book of his mind than the pictures of an uncle stomping out a tune on an upright piano (no guesses who this is)  and of his father picking away quietly at a mandolin, or squeezing the last strains of ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ from the corrugated confines of his favourite concertina. Some things are easy to forget. Others are never forgotten. Having received these gifts as part of his heritage how thankful the old man was to be able to bequeath them to his own kin.
     Sitting there thinking and playing the old man had a broader thought. It wasn’t just his side of the family that was blessed with such a tax free gift. The not so old lady’s family had been known to carry a song. Sadly her father had never been one to confide in his kin as to his up-bringing and there was no record to hand, mental or visual, of those gone before. On his first meeting with him the old man was given reason to think that maybe he’d never had a father at all for his daily attitude was not designed to encourage further association.
     To his credit his voice had been compared favourably with those of successful tenors of the day in reviews in the local press following one lone appearance in a local production. The clear, resounding tones of Nessun Dorma erupting from the bathroom when in one of his better moods were not easily forgotten.
     In this age the old man could look back with understanding on his father-in- law’s situation. There was never enough money for an overlarge family that struggled to survive, but there was just enough for the drink which provoked actions on the part of the bread winner that should have been beyond his nature.
     It had not been difficult for a budding son-in-law to believe all his Christmases had come at once when he was able to carry his bride off to brighter horizons. He felt as though all his life time goals had been fulfilled in one stunning action when this beautiful young woman, who by comparison tended to make Marilyn look like a bag-lady, said ‘I do’. Sitting and playing this day to their grandchildren he had no reason to think otherwise.
     She had a brother. She had two brothers, but the elder brother was special. He was protective and full of understanding which led to a special bond between the siblings. He was never a member of any ‘Rat Pack’, but Sinatra could have readily given the nod of approval to one who handled his selections with such finesse. Thinking of him now the old man could understand the talent that was emerging in this new generation. They were called ‘crooners’ in those days and socially there was none better than this young man when he rendered ‘Body and Soul’ to the swooning locals. His father thought otherwise, but ‘Body and Soul’ could never be forgotten.
     "Bloody crooners. They won’t last" he was often heard to remark, but he could sing. They both could.
     The six year old Catherine protested when the old man stopped playing as number three son returned to the room with the youngest under his arm and deposited her once more on her stage in readiness for the second act. Larry had been busy with his felt tips in a spasm of creativity and Martin laid a sample of his work on the desk for his father to approve.
     "What am I looking at?" asked the old man as he began playing once more, but at the same time studying the pre-school Picasso before him. Two vivid green lumpy legs mushroomed from two solid blocks which were supposedly shoes to disappear into an angular purple skirt that stopped short two inches above the hem-line. That was it. Very colourful. Very creative.
     "What is it again?" he repeated. "It’s very good."
      The bulky form of Larry wedged its way between the guitar and the desk and wide brown eyes gleamed as they sought approval.
     "It’s the bottom part of granny, granddad" he said proudly.
     Of course. How stupid not to see.
     "Play ‘Ten Guitars’ granddad" urged Catherine.
     He played ‘Ten Guitars’. He was going to do that anyway and as he did the rocking and the rolling began once more. The words came easily as always and it was Larry who joined the trio as Catherine burst forth .
     ‘I have a band of men . . . .’ she began and the old man lapsed once more into his thought pattern. A band of men! He surely had that. Four sons and seven grandsons and to be politically correct he should certainly include the ladies. It would not be complete without them and most definitely not without his wife. It seemed pretty clear to most that he was the leader of his very special band for there existed a certain strength within him which was often drawn upon by the players at the most unexpected times; but that was to be expected and that was the reason for him being there.
     At the back of everything the old man knew his strength came from his partner. Being associated with her and having the need to provide for her had instilled a force within that was irrepressible. Yet he was always ready to defend his position as ‘leader of the band’ and was pleased to explain his belief that the man is the head of the family and the woman is the neck. As such she is able to turn the head any way she chooses.
     The music continued and none seemed to tire of it. The words of the song came without thought and he was able to run the soundtrack of his mind silently behind the lyrics as they spilled from his lips.
     ‘Through the eyes of love you’ll see a thousand stars. . . .’ sang Catherine with a confidence and balance that saw her dictating proceedings with hand actions and mime. He observed her through the eyes of love. Was there another way? And she was a star. They were all stars. It was a foregone conclusion on the old man’s part that eventually she would break a few hearts with that winning smile and shock of shimmering straight black hair. It easily reached below her shoulders to compliment the olive tones of her skin. She had her granny’s eyes; heart breakers, alright.
     The ‘bottom part of granny’ lay on the desk and as he sang he marvelled at the wisdom and innocence of children and accepted such as his lesson for the day. Each person may view any situation from a different perspective, but from whatever position the situation remains the same although it may appear to be different. Larry saw the bottom half of a granny. The old man saw the top half of granny and occasionally glanced at the bottom, but whatever way you looked at granny she was still granny. Is that the way children view life, he thought? Just the bottom half of everything? In which case do we as adults take into consideration only the top half of life tending to take for granted the bottom half that served as a basic ingredient for our climb up the ladder of life? The basic ingredients? Love, trust, faith, giving?
     One can learn so much from children. How important it is to consider another person’s perspective. How important the perspective of a child? When the old man and the not so old lady had first met, had they known then about Catherine dancing in the sunlight forty to fifty years on down the track they may well have wished their lives away, being anxious for those years to pass. Would it have been possible to wait those years for a Larry with half of his granny etched in water colour? Had they been given a hint of Rachel swaying to the beat in a new millennium would they have shown dissatisfaction and impatience with those years between. It is as well none of us is allowed to know what lies in store. What a prize! What a reward for a marriage made in heaven. Like a new penny in the toe of a Christmas stocking.
     The old man knew he was rich beyond belief. He’d played to all of the children in turn and no amount of coin tendered could come close to a mere deposit on the true value of the sparkle in the eyes and the wiggle of the hips of innocent youth. Some things can never be forgotten.
No matter how old one is one can only benefit from considering the perspective of a child.
* * * * * * *
     The thirty two year old ‘child’, Martin, stood in the doorway and watched the antics of his family. His dad was on form today and how he loved to fiddle with that guitar. For as long as he could remember the family had tolerated the old man’s passion for country music. The names of Hank Williams and Jimmy Rodgers had long been engraved on the daily work sheet and many a time he had wished that he too, could have carried a tune and played an instrument as did his brothers.
     We can’t all be all alike and life carries its compensations. Martin’s love for driving and unerring sense of direction drew benefits for the outdoor life and because of that he’d fulfilled an early dream and travelled the world. It had been easy to come home and settle down and it seemed the right woman had been waiting for him. They’d married. The product of that marriage was the three kids who were at that moment raising Cain with the old man. That old man was a good father and Martin had no illusions that things had ever been easy for him. He had always made it look easy, though, whatever the circumstances and when either he or his brothers were in trouble, or thought they knew better, the old fellow was always there with advice and support.
For Martin there was still much to strive for in life, but if he were to wish for one thing it would be that he could prove to be as good a father to his children as their grandfather had been to him.
As the music stopped the old chap relinquished his treasured instrument which served as a signal that another raid on the kitchen was imminent. A timely side step by Martin avoided the exodus which left father and son alone in the room and the conversation was as normal. The new job, the old job, the big game, his mate’s new Harley; the old man was always interested; and then . . . . .
     "I was over to see my birth mother this morning" said Martin. "It didn’t do much for me. I don’t think I’ll bother any more."
     The old man didn’t seem surprised and raised little comment.
     "You’re birth mother. That’s good" he replied. "How was she?".
     The idiot deep inside him was slowly recovering. He and his wife had adopted Martin at birth. Some things are easily forgotten.