The fatal cup of tea.
It sounds like the title for a murder mystery but of course it isn’t, and it’s going to be a couple of posts at least until the meaning becomes apparent, I was going to say clear but somehow I don’t think it will be all that clear.
Back in 2012 I did three rambling blogs whch in essence covers what I want to write about next so here I’m going to do just a brief summary and endeavour to move this saga along a bit faster.
In late 1957 a few months before my approaching marriage I was told by my chum Stan, (George Stanley Shaw) to expect a phone call and an invitation “to a cup of tea” and I should accept the invite. The blogs go into more details. The upshot was I was offered and accepted a new job with a higher ranking and more than twice the pay. I might mention here that I never told my mother about the big jump in salary for obvious reasons.
I became officially the Assistant Claims Manager to a Mr. Alan Latham FCAII (Fellow of the Chartered Australian Insurance Institute or something like that, I’m mentioning that because he set great store by such things); his uncle was Sir John Latham, GCMG (God Calls Me God with thanks to Bernard and “Yes Minister”) who was/had been the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir John had a distinguished career. Sir John was an atheist (hows that for the top judge) and his nephew was a ‘Rechabite’. You can guess who I considered the best man of the two.
Naturally Mr Latham and I didn’t hit it off; ever! He obviously objected to me being appointed his 2 I.C. and having had no say in the matter and worse was to come. I was given free rein by Mr Bucknell, the Director and an open door to his office, I was in fact bi-passing my boss the ‘Claims Manager’, I didnt ask for this I was given it and so I used it. Mr Latham had explained how a Lloyds Broker acts and what was expected of me acting in and on their behalf and I was turned free. If I had any problems or queries or matters to dicuss I went right past his office to the Directors. I suppose in effect I was the de facto Claims Manager.
A couple of months after starting with Harvey Trinders, Mr Bucknell decided that on the last Thursday of each month he would have a dinner for the senior underwriters and the claims manager. Somehow I got included, although officially only the ”Asst CM.”, I thnk perhaps it’s because I wasn’t averse to a glass of wine and Mr L? Well he was a ‘Rechabite’.
The dinners were to be held at the Oxford Hotel in the top end Swanston Street, I suppose it’s long gone now, a small elegant hotel with a beautiful table. I’d never seen or heard of finger bowls until the first time at the Oxford. Dinner was set in a private room and the table set complete with place cards. Mr Bucknell of course sat at the head and Mr. Latham was given the seat on his right, and I on his left; which came as a surprise to everybody but no one commented, as arrangements had been made by the Director himself. The Underwriters were strictly speaking, senior to me in fact I was the youngest, most junior at table that evening; the youngest of the underwriters was Bill Wallace, he watched over the motor vehicle business and Bill would have been in his very late 20’s early 30’s I suppose; I was 22. Well I can’t remember what I ate or drank that night but I don’t doubt it was delightful, I did have a couple of glasses of wine and finished with a port, that I do remember. I think I was pretty excited and tickled pink by the occasion.
The following month though there was a change, my place card appeared on Mr Bucknell’s right, and there it remained until I evetually left Harvey Trinder’s. Why the change was made was never told, but I met Mr Bucknell some years later and what he said to may have explained his decision if I read into what he said to me correctly , and I have every reason to think I may well be right.
To say that the relationship between the Claims Manager and the Assistant Claims Manager was strained would not be far off the mark, altough I think more so his dislike of me, he just didn’t seem to matter or exist to me, it never occured to me to discuss claims and what I was doing with him, in retrospect I suppose that was pretty rude and wrong of me, but I kind of lived in my own little world. Everything I did passed across his desk of course but I’d done the work made the decisions and there really wasn’t much left for him to do, as I said if I did need to talk about something I headed for the directors office.
One of our major clients happened to be the now long gone Richmond Brewery Co. (they brewed a fine drop), which was being run by Sir Rupert Clarke 3rd Baronet, who had married the daughter of the owner of the brewery, (now why didn’t I do that!) and Mr Latham had told me that whenever we rang Sir Ruperts office if a man answered, hang up immediately only speak to the lady. Rather odd this. Why when ringing would Sir Rupert be answering the phone and why would I have to hang up? I was told by by chum Mr L. that Sir Rupert was always rude and bad tempered and it would be best if I didn’t speak to him. I wonder; did he want to be the sole contact?
Sir Rupert was a smart man , not because he married the heiress to a brewery , he introduced the Santa Gertrudis cattle to Australia, which he imported from Texas to his station in Queensland named appropriately ” King Ranch”. King Ranch – KR Darling Downs smallgoods can still be found in Australian supermarkets.
Back to the brewery; I was called to speak to this huge bloke standing at the claims counter. He had an accident to report, he’d hit and killed a pedestrian so I helped complete the forms when it came to the question re drink, the answer, yes, he’d had about 20 or 30 or so ponies during the day the accident but he was fine, wasn’t under the influence or anything. The police had charged him but that wasn’t a problem; I said fine and agreed with him. I told him that I’d have to put my Assessors onto the case and asked if he’d contacted a solicitor and he told me that he’d instructed Mr R.H. Dunne, I said fine he was a top solicitor.for such cases. It appeared that the man he’d knocked down and killed was a vagrant and had no known relatives.
I told him to keep in touch let me know how he got on in court, rang Toplis & Harding (actually back then it was Toplis Harding & Satchell – Mr Satchell was an ex Royal Ins man who went into Insurance loss assessing and became an arm of the international Toplis Harding group) told them to get onto the claim saspo (soon as possible) and opened a file with a £3500. possible payout; amazing how relatives can appear out of the woodwork and then there was the funeral costs to think about.
Mr Latham naturally got to see this newly lodged claim and asked me what I thought I was doing, putting a £3500 estimated payout on a cliam where the driver was drunk. I told him that the driver wasn’t drunk and that we’d be up for the funeral and if anybody came forward with a claim we’d have a payout there too. He told me to forget it I told him no way the claim stayed and that I’d advised London anyway, London were advised whenever there was a claim likely to cost money. I explained to him that the driver a ‘Sales Rep’ for a brewery drank, was expected to drink and had to drink quite a lot (don’t forget this is a Rechabite I’m talking to), I also told him that he’d instructed Mr Dunne to look after his case so there was absolutely no way that he would be convicted. The outcome was we only paid for the funeral nobody came forward. At least Toplis Harding, Mr Bucknell Harvey Trinder, London and ultimately Lloyds of London agreed with me. Poor old Latham!
Well “The fatal cup of tea” is taking a bit of time in the telling, I might do a couple more tales of odd things happening before I get to the slopes of this story of “Religion.My Mother & Me”; if you think I’m putting off some nasty stuff then you’d be spot on !
Just out of curiosity I went and looked up the Oxford Hotel just to see if it was still there and yes it is a slight name change The Oxford Scholar, same biulding different pub now though reading about it, what a shame the nicer things in life all passed by, but hers a picture courtesy Google,
The previous posts I mentioned can be viewed at the followin links:
Why am I being diffident?
It’s now obvious to me after the last two posts, that I’m actually putting off the inevitable. I don’t know whether by cowardice or shame or both. Perhaps looking for excuses and reasons for my behaviour that are not there, what I do know is that after starting this project I have no alternative but to finish it honestly and truthfully. In the last two, and this one I’m looking to give some insight as to what set me on the course I was given to steer. I’ll try and keep this lot as concise as possible but can’t guarantee anything, I’ve got a peripatetic brain that won’t sit still, likes to keep travelling.
Everything considered I think perhaps my secondary education was not exactly a happy time,I was compelled to participate in sport; cricket in summer, Rugby in winter, plus a PT session every week. The only thing I really enjoyed about those events was the lovely hot showers in the winter after rugger; the cold ones in summer after cricket didn’t do much for me. Like it or lump it I had to turn out for rugby training and I got put into various positions by the PT master but didn’t exactly impress.
Bertie Bright (Mr. J B Bright the Science Master and Deputy Head) just happened to be the House Master of “Red/Sheffield” and whilst watching training late one afternoon told the PT fellow to shove me in at ‘full back’. Nobody argued with Bertie. I found out much later why he did this to me after I’d become a sort of side kick to him, he told me that he thought I was a lazy player who wouldn’t move after the ball, but if I was the last line of defence and someone was running at me with the ball, I’d have to do something about it and stop him, especially as the other 14 boys on the team would be watching and I’d have to answer to them if I let the side down.
This is as good a time as any I suppose to explain the side kick; I’m not sure how it got started but Mr Bright (Bertie behind his back but no one game to his face) was a driving force, one of his passions was the ”Old Boy’s” Amateur Dramatic Society, of which he was the principle director, producer, actor, stage manager lighting expert, and whatever else was needed, and it must have been during one of our science classes when he asked/called for a volunteer to give him a bit of a hand after school and I naturally volunteered. I can’t help myself. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for.
At the final bell for the day I presented myself at the school hall as instructed and we went backstage and he got me to give him a hand painting some scenery, he had “A Midsummer Nights Dream” coming up and was a bit behind and was having trouble getting any of the old boys to come give him a hand. the painting didn’t need to be Rembrandt quality as from the audience it usually looked good.
So I had a fine old time and when I got home and told my mother why I was late she was really pleased with me for some reason and told me that if he needed me again I could stay as late as he required. It got to be that some nights I’d get home from school after nine close to ten, and everyone was happy, especially me. It got me out of doing classes that I abhorred, metal/wood work; I’d just get into those classooms and Bertie’s head would appear around the door if he didn’t have a class, and he’d just say ” I need Smith” and off he’d go, I’d get the nod from the teacher and in great glee would be off to join Bertie backstage.
We had a brilliant school hall, A proper stage complete with cyclorama, batten, lights, curtains, flats and fly’s we had the lot. The stalls could take around 350/400 and the Dress Circle another 150 or so and we always had packed houses. I never appeared on stage, there was always plenty that Bertie had for me to do backstage which suited me fine, He was the star :star: . There was one production we did I’ll never forget, not a great play “The Ghost Train”, just a one act play with Bertie in the starring role of the stationmaster of course. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ghost_Train_%28play%29).
One of the final scenes is the ‘Ghost Train ‘ roaring through the railway station (it’s not a train station, it’s a railway station!) and he had to come up with a train carriages lights flashing by the waiting room windows. We constucted a couple of small windmill type things, a wooden cross with a square panel nailed to the top of each point, bit like a double paddle anyway the idea was we’d squat down below the windows, have the sound runnng of a train approaching fast and start spinning the wheels which were set in front of a strip light, in practice it worked a treat. Bertie was not in this scene so he manned the stage right paddles and I manned the stage left, he also threw the switch on/off the lighting to give the impression, he’d give me the nod and we’d swing our wheel/paddle things in unison and the train would roar through the station. What a lot of fun we had.
Anyway the first night something happened that we weren’t prepared for; as the train roars through the station one of the women stranded in the waiting room screams picks up an axe or hammer I forget which, (and why was there one of these in the waiting room anyway? ), and she hurls it through a window, Now as we were working on a very limited budget we never threw the weapon through the glass window during rehersals, there was only the one actual glass window the rest were cellophane or something I forget now, and we had 2 replacements, the production was scheduled for 3 nights.
So I’m sitting under the window, Bertie gives me the nod we both start spinning, the train starts roaring, the woman screams and hurls the hammer whatever through the glass window and guess who’s sqautting right under it! Yes me, I got showered with the glass and clunked on the head and kept going til Bertie switched the lights off, he whispered are you alright and I nodded and he went back onstage. never had so much fun in my life. For the last two performances I squatted beneath the window wearing a fireman’s helmet. I liked and respected Mr Bright above all others and I suspect he liked me too, not that he’d ever have said.
“I need Smith” was enough.
There was one other teacher at the ‘Park’ who I got on with, a Mr Grey, for some ridiculous reasons the boys gave him the nickname “Pinky’ (which would not have had today’s meaning I’m sure). Mr Grey was our French Master and even in his class which I enjoyed I had my usual position, back row left corner, a position I had taken as mine from the very beginning. I didn’t like being right in front, there were those that did who liked to stick their hands/arms up in the air “please sir” cheee..
On this particular morning/afternoon I can’t recall which exactly I was pretty tired and not paying much attention, I normally did during the lesson with Mr. G. he was a good Master and taught well, called out to ask what I was doing, and I mumbled about having been out very late I was feeling tired. He wanted to know what and why I’d been out late for and I told him that I’d been to the opera with my Uncle Charlie and it was really late when I got home and I was still trying to catch on my sleep, I really loved my bed back then; “Went to the opera”! I think those words must have shook him, a boy from ‘Park Modern’ going to the opera? I’m sure he thought I was having a dig at him so he held me back at the bell.
I assured him that what I’d said was true and I’d been to the opera with Uncle Charlie and I’d loved it but was still tired out. So I had to tell him all about my first time and I wrote a blog about that sometime ago; (http://lordbeariofbow.com/2012/04/08/the-opera-my-first-visit/ ) so if you want the gen on that there’s the link
After this he seemed to take more interest in me, and when I went to more operas and told him about them and how much I enjoyed going we enjoyed a good chat together most times after class if we had free time. He was a bit sneaky, every now and then he’d break into French and start conversing in that language, I knew I was doing pretty well in the subject but this was a bit rich. It got to the stage where I became quite good and that’s probably the reason I got the offer as exchange student with a French child; which my mother negated! :'( I did top the school in my final year in this subject my % being in excess of 50 of the runner up.
What a waste!
Enough of this time for me to get back to the series which I’ve been putting off; just a few more highs before the fall!
Study. Understanding. Memory.
It is fair to say and a reasonable assumption that not only am/was I lazy; I am/was without any ambition whatsoever. Now how’s that for a self attributable ‘put down’? I believe after what I am about to write any discerning reader will agree with this statement. Because of this I think I shall be digressing/deviating quite a bit and hope that it will all come together and make sense before I finish! I must admit that I have been musing over this since starting the “Religion. My Mother & Me.” series of posts as it is relevant and will hopefully give some cohesion to the whole.
A couple of years ago I wrote a couple of Blogs/Posts on Notes they’re not long and if you’re at all interested in reading them just type the word in the seach box which in case you haven’t noticed is at the top right of the page, well it was the last time I looked, and ‘Notes’ brings me to the first part of the sub heading ‘Study’.
In the late summer of 1946 I was bundled off to continue my education not at the Barking Abbey along with my only school chum Joey Richardson, but to the Park Modern Secondary School for Boys (there was also one for the girls attached) a considerably lesser school than the Abbey but the one my mother wanted. Sonny was a student there as were most if not all of the older boys from Langley Crescent, with the exception of Alec Rook who failed even that entrance exam.
Each of the four years there was divided into 3 classes the lowest class being 1C followed by 1B then 1A ; right up to 4A which was the top class and there was approximately 30 boys to each class. The number of course benoted the year. I was assignd to 1A and our Class Master was one Mr. W.J Stockwell a rather large rotund man. I was assigned to “Red” (later to be renamed “Sheffield” with a Viking ship emblem) house as my brother Sonny was in “Red” and our House Master was one Mr. J. Bright the Science Master, a veritable ball of energy who stood around 5 foot nothing, well perhaps an inch or two over. He was also Deputy Head master, who in one sense became quite a good friend to me and I’ll get to that sometime. Sonny was two years ahead of me and I think he’d advanced then into 3B.
The first day we were given all our exercise books and we spent the best part of the morning writing our names and class and subject in each, we were also given a small supply of pencils and pens with spare nibs. For those unaware of what nibs are these were the things stuck into the end of the pen which we dipped into the inkpots/wells for the ink naturally :roll: . I didn’t know it then but I was very fortunate to have Mr. Stockwell for the Class Master, it was one of his jobs to teach us to write properly and he had the best hand and the best signature that I’d ever seen, beautiful and I must admit I tried my best to emulate him over the next 70 years.
Our first day at school and we were given a dose of what was to come, we were given homework; not much but Mr.S gave us an assignment, we had to write what he called a composition and we had to write ‘our’ story. Well to cut this bit short when I got home my mother asked me how things went and I said fine but I’d been given some homework to do, she asked what I had to do and when I told her she said fine she’d do it for me and I could copy it out in my book.
Don’t ask me what she wrote I wouldn’t have a clue I didn’t then and I haven’t now, when I got to school the next morning I handed it in and went about day dreaming, I was particularly good at that. Mr S thought I’d done a very good job so I had to stand and read whatever the rubbish that my mother wrote out to the rest of the class to show them how it was done. From then on I became Mr. Stockwell’s favourite and earned the name “Bri Bri”. I’d been called Brian when in trouble and strife I got called Bodger or Midge by the family and Smiffy by my school mates but never “BriBri”.
I quickly put it out that any boy who called me or used that name behind my back did so at their peril, I was not averse to a punch up and enjoyed the physical clashes that I had from time to time especially with my brother who was quite a bit bigger than I, and which I invariably won. I had a nasty, vicious temper at times and would go berserk, many a time I remember my parents pulling me off of Sonny while we were brawling. I don’t think Sonny enjoyed a stoush that much. Anyway nobody ever called me by that name, only ‘Bill’ I still haven’t forgiven him.
There was absolutely nothing stimulating about the lessons we received, it all seemed very simple that I spent more time day dreaming and looking out of the windows than listening to the teachers. In retrospect I’d have probably been better off had they have shoved me into a class a few years further on but they didn’t do that back then you just got stuck in the ‘quagmire of slothdom’.
Like it or lump it there were subjects and classes you were required to do or attend. I wasn’t much interested in ‘Maths’ or ‘Science’ but they were more to my liking than the compulsory “woodwork and metalwork”.
The only subjects that I recall held any excitement, for want of a better word, was ‘French’ hey I was learning a new language, history, a subject never touched upon in my primary years and literature. French has gone by the wayside, (I do have a large print on the wall that is in French and when alone I do at times read the text out aloud to see if I still have the verbal command of the language). But history and literature never left me.
Studying never came hard to me, I love to read, to turn a page? It’s magical! I do not read very quickly (although the War Office will tell you otherwise) I savour each word and the beauty and my good fortune is that I understand everything I read. Some tests conducted by some educational boffins way back concluded that my comprehension rate was in excess of 99%; when they told me this, I said that if it was in excess of 99% then it must be 100% and they assured me that it was not so but in excess of 99% I suggested that perhaps I’d missed a comma or a full stop/period and they looked at me as if I were mad.
I imagine that this is why I’ve never bothered taking and making notes, it was quite pointless writing down what was already stored in my head, if I read something of interest then it would pretty well get shoved into one of the many filing cabinets that somebody once suggested made up my brain and would be called upon when needed. It was this ability that gave me an edge when I started working, I’ve never really thought about the why’s or wherefore’s of this ability.
I recall staying with my brother for some months, during one of our peaceful times and he was studying for admittance to the Baltic Exchange and I recall the frustration and emotions the angst he went through. I’ve never had or suffered that, then I didn’t have to study as such, I just needed to read. I’ll be more explicit when I get back to the series.
I’ve seem my daughter Sarah, aka Dopey Daughter, go through similar emotions whilst doing her studies and writing her papers and I’m at a loss because I never have had those emotions. I have no doubt that they would say that’s because I didn’t study and never obtained qualifications which in one sense is true but in reality not so, and that will be revealed very soon.
The one thing that always strikes me when it comes to ‘qualifications’ ‘degrees’ is this; the students are studying and reading and writing thesis on the same subjects over and over again with little variation, and people who mark these papers see what is a rehash of what they wrote long before and maybe just maybe there’s something fresh in there that singles out somebody that has had a novel idea/theory whatever. I wonder how many of these academics have ever had an original thought, Not too many and those that do get a Nobel Prize. ( That being so I’ll now put my hand up for mine).
So what am I ranting about now? Nothing really, I’m just stating my aversion to study for the sake of study to impress.
I had intended to talk about a couple of my teachers at the “Park” but I’ve gone on long enough I’ve gone way off course so maybe I’ll comeback and finish what I wanted to write about later. What it has to do with “SUM’ (see sub-heading) is beyond me but hopefully it will beome clearer as I plod along. I’ve got the laziness ambitionless bit to write about too! :?
Time to take a breather!
Well may you ask why, two reasons, my sister who you have met on these pages as the “Doodlebug Baby” suggested that what I am writing should be ‘somewhat carthartic’, I think perhaps carthexis is the most likely; and the other is that I am receiving a fair amount of “flak” (which my Australian Oxford Dictionary defines as adverse criticism, abuse). Which is fair enough if taking what I have already written and published is the total of what I intend and have in mind.
It is not! I have no intention of writing anything derogatory about my wife The War Office aka Kerry. indeed quite the opposite. Perhaps it’s hard for some of my distractors/detractors to understand that I did have a life before the W.O. and I am making a chronicle, a narrative, a full account; again my AOD’s definition, of the past sixty or so years. I do not have a magic wand and this is going to take me some time and if there are some things said/written that causes any discomfort, it cannot be helped.
What I am writing is the complete truth, I have been blessed/cursed with what I can only say is an amazing memory. Perhaps during this breather I shall elaborate on such a profound statement. It is not conceited. egotistical just the plain unmitigating truth.
My original intention when I started on this chronicle was to finish in either 1987 or 2005 with reasons which would have been explained. Now I’m considering going further, I shall have to ponder that matter.
I had selected two photographs, which are among my favourites,. and also I believe Dopey Daughters; one for each of the two years mentioned 1987and 2005, with which to end the the final post.
You may like to view these and ponder upon all the derogatory things I may say and write in the coming days and weeks! I’m sure there’s a great deal of that to come!
Australia Day 1957.
Saturday the 26th January 1957, if memory serves me correctly, wasn’t the normal stinking hot and humid northerly wind (which you could cut with a knife) blowing day, but a pretty cool almost balmy day. Joan suggested we take a walk down to the beach. Now the Albert Park beach which is just a couple of hundred yards or so down the road from Joan’s house is/was not what people think of, if and when thinking, about Australian beaches. If the surf ever pounds it I never saw it, it was I suppose the ideal beach for this Pommy boy, I’m not into swimming, come to that I’ve never been much of a beach lover
I didn’t mind flopping around on the beach at times so when she suggested we go down I went; not being a hot humid day there were very few people on the beach cooling off in fact we almost had the entire beach to ourselves.
We were just sitting there looking out across the bay at nothing, relaxing and out of the blue Joan said “lets stop buggarizing around and get married”, those were her very words. I’d never heard her come out with that word before. We had spoken about getting married obviously, when you are ‘going steady’ for 18 months or so it’s quite natural for the subject to arise at some stage. I don’t know what you’d call this, not really a proposal or an ultimatum or suggestion, a confirmation of an implied agreement perhaps, but whatever you call it I answered “Okay” and carried on relaxing on the beach.
“When”, was what she said next, talk about put a man on the spot; so after a bit of thought I suggested September 1959, yes September ’59; 2 years 9 months away, she looked at me raising one eyebrow which meant I had to explain my reason for such a long engagement. I told her that she would be turning 21 then and we wouldn’t have to worry about getting her fathers permission and signature (there was no love lost between Jack and me).
Naturally she agreed she’d got an okay and a date, so we became engaged, unofficially for the time being but engaged. Too, the time frame that I came up with, September 59, didn’t have much merit with Joan and she had other ideas on a date, which I was to find out about a bit later. I’d said okay all she had to do now was work on me to come up with something not so ridiculous, not that I was aware then.
Actually I didn’t know much about marriage and what it entailed, the only marriage I knew anything about was my parents; and that wasn’t anything I’d want to write home about. My mother was a right wing Tory and my dad was a left wing socialist and I have no intention of going into the fights and arguments that got extremely firey and bitter at times. I knew that we were not going to have this problem. We had too much in common. Books, music movies we had much of everything going for us.
Except for one thing!
I cannot recall exactly when we came out and announced that we were engaged to be married and Joan started wearing her ring I think perhaps around my birthday in April, but it’s of no great moment now. The thing is when it was announced somehow the date of the wedding had gone from September 59 to April ’58. in one years time, and the date selected was the 19th, and the reason for that date? Simple Joan had decided that as my birthday was on the 17th and she was not likely to forget my birthday if we married two days later then I’d have no problem or reason to forget her wedding anniversary.I must admit I admired her logic.
I won’t bore you with the rest of 1957, it was pretty much the same as 56, two people going about their everyday lives; working and playing as normal but as the year came to a close, changes which would eventually affect our lives for ever came into play!
Was our first full year together, I was going to say courting but that doesn’t seem the correct expression I suppose we were but somehow that does not seem to cover it. The expression full year together seems to imply that we were living together which we weren’t. but truth be told Joan was never far from my thoughts and I was never far away from hers. We spent as much time together as was both possible and practicle.
On occasions we went away together sharing the same room and bed but retaining our chastity, I suppose the temptation was there at times but was always kept in check. It never seemed the right time to consumate our growing love and we both innocents in the wide world when it came to such things were quite content not to shall I say? Experiment.
Obviously we discussed the possibility of it happening in time, but Joan was constantly aware of her father and his “girl friends/women” which had given her a suspicion of the advances of men, and I think perhaps my attitude towards women had given her cause for hope.
Always wearing a hat I never failed to raise it to a lady or young woman of my acquaintance on meeting, I always stood when one entered a room and would never dream of walking on the inside of a lady on the footpath. To this day if riding on public transport and a lady gets on and there are no seats I will rise and give her mine, can’t help myself.
When we talked about her schooling which we did quite often and from time to time, her memories were all good with the nuns at the convent school, however, the priest assigned to lead the girls at Mass was somewhat young, I imagine that that is where they had to go to practice being a priest. Anyway this young one had made what Joan said were inappropriate passes at her, having grown up in the enviroment which she did she was well aware of passes and where they were designed to lead.
She never ever went to Mass again after leavng that school, I never knew her to make any mention of God in any shape or form. I believe that the actions of that priest killed off any religion she may have had; he picked the wrong girl, she may have been young, but she’d seen much of men and the lascivious of many of them including her father. Her memories of her mother didn’t do much to help either
It was her desire though that when she did marry it would be the full thing, I will be telling about that very soon now.
How she put up with me though is still beyond my understanding, I loved going to work and doing what I did, we both enjoyed the movies, occasional concerts when visiting top class performers came to Australia, they were few and far between back then.
In retrospect I think I must have been a pretty boring sort of bloke. I did have a beer with the ‘boys’ at work most lunchtimes (everyday Monday to Friday) and sometimes after work, these were the good old days of the 6 O’Clock swill, that’s when the pubs stopped serving at 6 pm and you had to be off the premise by 6.15pm; and then I’d meet up with Joan if not working late, which I did 2 or 3 nights a week, nowadays I suppose I’d be classed as a workaholic, a word that wasn’t around back then.
And so 1956 just passed on by, me drifting along in love and happy, content boring and selfish; this was about to change in January of 1957, but that’s for next time.
Back in the early 1950’s after arriving in Melbourne I discovered the Savoy Theatre up in Russell Street which specialized in ‘Continental’ Movies; the connotation being that as continental they must be sex movies. Not so! There may well have been some nudity in some but not as far as I can recall, I did see a Bridget Bardot film there once and that may well have had sexual overtones which would have sailed over my head.
The only films that I went to see were French and some great movies did I get to see,”Le salaire de la peur” ( “The Wages of Fear”) starring Yves Montand, my favourite actor back then directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot who went on to direct a movie that I intend to write about in this post..
“Du rififi chez les hommes “Rififi” a masterpiece of suspense directed by an American Jules Dassin who’d been kicked out of Hollywood, there is one scene in this movie that lasts for it must be all of 15-20 minutes without music, talking, the only sound was the breathing of the rogues, amazing and suspensful, well worth seeing today if you can get to see the original.
Why I only went to the French movies you may well ask thinking the worse, again ; not so!, I went so I could hear the spoken language, I’d had 4 years of French from 1945 (August/September) to April 1950, and I was rather good at it (I topped the school in both written and spoken French in April ’50 exceeding the Matriculation graduation mark with a 77%, I still have the final certificate attesting to this.), at age 14 I had the opportunity to go as an exchange student to Paris, there were if I recall correctly 35/36 children from various schools in Essex selected of which I was one, but my mother would not allow me to go.
So now you know why my interest in the French movies, it was to keep my mind working and attuned to the language, nothing dirty or sordid, hope this hasn’t spoilt this for any reader! :P
Clouzot the Master directed the most chilling, frightening, movie I ever saw, I believe it is still, after all these years, regarded in the top ten most scary movies ever produced. I know I never saw anything before or since that can match it; ” Les Diaboliques” .
I knew nothing about this movie; all who went to see it were sworn to secrecy. Not to spill the beans and reveal the ending; actually there was nothing to stop people it was an honour thing that everybody seemed to agee to and abide by.
Anyway, I asked Joan if she’d like to go see this French movie that I knew nothing about, and knowing that I wanted to see it, she readily agreed, she did not speak or understand French to well, in fact not at all, which was unfortunate. Along we went to what I hoped would be a good thriller that would excite and of course thrill us.
No way, this movie would be moving along quite innocently when a small view of something unexplained struck horror even unto the most hearty, a shadow/person at a window would send a shudder, and so it went on until almost the final most terrifying scene that I’ve ever seen on the silver screen, and if you want to know what it is then you’ll have to go see the movie yourself, I’m still bound by that oath of secrecy.
Joan’s scream was echoed by every woman and most men in the audience, I kid you not, whether I screamed or not I can’t remember but the sheer terror even now can send a shiver down my spine.
We were too shaken to go to our café for our coffee with Gus that night, both shaking I drove Joan home. she was still in a state of total shock and fear, I’d recovered somewhat and when we arrived at Albert Park she asked if I would stay with her until she could calm down, I could not refuse her anything so of course I stayed.
About an hour later she seemed to be okay and I said I’d better get going so she could get some rest and I waited ’til she was in bed and as I was about to leave she implored me not to go, once again she was in a state of terror. How could I leave her there shaking trembling an utter mess? I’d never seen her so distressed of course I said I’d stay.
That was the first night that we shared a bed, nothing else happened I promise, indeed it wasn’t until very much later in our relationship that anything did, I just lay there holding her and eventually she slept, I got very little sleep, I just held her close. I should not have taken her to see such a movie ( I must admit a day or so later I was glad that I’d seen it). <3
I never went to see a “Continental Movie” again.
Joan was just 17 at the time.