Thinking of father, 20 years after his death.
The most fun we had was firing up the incinerator. The 40 Gallon drum version. The drum would be pre-punctured (Father always 'knew a guy') with slots that let in air and held a grill. Loaded with paper and corrugated cardboard (in the days before plastic packaging) it would go off like an explosion. Chunks of glowing cardboard would loft over Thorndon. In those days, a collection of boarding house, nobody complained. Certainly not the old German couple on the other side. Drums would rust out after a year or so. Breaking in a new drum was exciting. The later, 'acceptable', concrete block incinerator was less fun. Anyway I'd left home by then.
After the parental move in 88 to that horrible house in Khandallah, I recall Mother sadly informing me that after one attempt at a fire, Father bowed to genteel pressure. No more incinerators. No more trips to the tip with the old drums. And heres a nod to old Grandad Tom who, for decades, wrapped the coal-fire ashes in newspaper, with never an outbreak of fire in the bins. As far as I know.
Father was non-violent, non-hugging but involved. Goon Shows and BBC Science report. On the valve radio, shared with me.
Not a great book lover. He seemed to read the BMJ, but the house didnt have a lot of books. If one climbed up to the top of the linen cupboard, one could discover hidden there 'Confessions of an English Opium Eater' and 'Crime and Punishment'. When the Monseigneur left us books in his will, I proceeded to destroy a priceless "Early Wellington" and a 20 volume collection of early "Punch". A bibliophile father would have made sure my childish destructive impulses were contained.
As a pseudo-Edwardian Freudian figure, he was quite successful. Mother would say "wait till your father gets home" then, "Here's your father now" - never any violence, but fear nevertheless. I recall a dream, I'm hiding in the little woodshed next to the kitchen door. A steady pounding, heartbeats or pads? A great lion is coming around the side of the house. Just as he reaches the corner I wake...
In a town in North Thailand, head full of zombie, hearing a car door slam, .."Here's your father now"
Father teaching me to drive, patiently. Then actually entrusting the wheel, and the life of the entire family, to me or Lew, as we motored towards Taupo. Usually a right turn to Palmerston North to visit His parents.
Father evidently had a great love of pregnant women. Whenever Mother ceased being pregnant, he would bring into the house an errant pregnant girl from the provinces, for charity, and domestic help, of course. The effect being the house constantly had someone pregnant. His career of thousands of obstetricals. I rather meanly once said to him I wouldnt care to be a doctor, and have to deal with sick people. He replied that that was why he went for obstetrics, pregnant women are not sick.
One physical quirk. His habit of odd gestures with his mouth. Sort of like the jaw shooting that George W Bush was accused of, from his coke days (George's, not Father's) I have the same, but worse. Never quite sure how to place my mouth.
Particularly after speed, my wife is constantly watching and warning me about 'doing that thing with your mouth'
The Monks say, "teeth lightly together, tongue on the roof of your mouth"
20 years since that plane dash back to Wellington, and the coldness from his forehead as I place my hand there.