In My Father’s Words
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
The Deepest Cut
Reflection 1969/Penned 2014
“This will hurt.” He spoke lightly, but clearly meant what he said.
“I mean it will hurt, and hurt a lot.”
“Tony, I know.”
“Are you prepared for all that pain?”
I grunted. “As prepared as I will ever be.”
I have never been shy and retiring, never had any doubts about my own ability. Some folks would describe this as arrogance, and I probably would not disagree. For ten years as a Police Officer and six as a commissioned officer in the Air Force, I cannot remember a situation where I had been afraid. While in the Met in the 1950’s and 60’s, I had been involved in many violent incidents. I had been stabbed with a knife, weilded by one giving his name as Napoleon Bonaparte, a man totally away with the fairies. Mad or not, you still bleed. I have had two broken fingers, blackened eyes and severely traumatised testicles.
I was involved in many of the CND inspired marches, which often tripped over into violence. On one such occasion while awaiting transport back home at 2.00am, having been on duty for twenty-two hours, my colleagues and I were verbally assailed by a young lady of about eighteen. “Fascist bastards,” she screamed.
Our sergeant looked at her. “Fuck off, love.”
“OK,” she replied mildly and duly did so. A very British tale and one only possible in the Swinging Sixties. Today in our ugly, warped PC world, both she and the sergeant would have been nicked. On no occasion did I ever feel that I was unable to deal with matters, I never felt afraid.
But this was different. This was a situation I wasn’t sure that I could handle.
Tony spoke gently. “Better get him in, then.”
I nodded dumbly. “OK.”
Once, after the bloody clashes outside South Africa House in the wake of Sharpeville, I had composed a small, not very good poem. I cannot remember it all now, but part of it went like this: “Here I stood, upon these steps, my comrade’s blood still wet on my shirt, too stupid to be afraid.”
Now I was a father, and my stupidity did not protect me. My son Rory was six and we were stationed in Penang in Malaysia. He had always had a sensitive skin and had developed ‘monsoon blisters.’ At this stage, as I spoke to Flt Lt Tony Helmans, RAAF doctor, my six year old had thirty-three of these vile swellings on his small body. Western medicine’s accepted wisdom was to lance them and squeeze out the clear fluid they contained. My job was to restrain my son and comfort him to the best of my ability while he was sliced open in thirty-three places. I was rigid with fear, but it had to be done.
We got to seven or eight and I broke, my son screaming and writhing, tears rolling down his face. “That’s enough, Tony. Stop there.”
The doctor started to protest but saw my face. I think he was grateful to put down the knife, doctors have feelings too. I took the still sobbing, bandaged little boy home. I was, and am still, vulnerable where my kids are involved, as I was to discover a year later when my two-year-old daughter was kidnapped. My wife blamed me for the situation. Her logic was unanswerable. “You brought us to this God forsaken place, it’s your fault.”
Our Amah, Choy was more practical. “Bloody Australian doctors know nothing. I give you name of good Chinese doctor, master.”
What was there to lose? The same day we went over to the island and saw Dr Fat. “No problem,” he said. “Take this ointment.”
“We rub it on the blisters?”
“No!” He was emphatic. “You put a little up his nose every night.”
My wife and I looked at each other. But we did what Dr Fat said. Within three weeks the blisters had gone, never to return. Thank God. I didn’t have the courage to face the knife again.
Written by my Father B.M