In My Father’s Words
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
In the run up to Christmas, I received three interesting Christmas cards. The first was sent to my next door neighbours and was addressed to Tyna Morrice, who had actually moved out in 1993. Tyna had been an interesting girl, an Australian who was employed as a croupier in a London Casino. All big ears and fluffy tail, I suppose. Alas, I never saw her in uniform. My daughter described her as a ‘hungry lady.’
The second I received myself. It was addressed to Mr and Mrs Patmore, or Pat and Peter, as it said on the card. I bought the flat from Peter Patmore in June 1991 and he was a widower at the time. I wondered how the senders, apparently so close to Tyna and the Patmores, had not known they had moved, or died, half a lifetime earlier.
The third was from my friends, John and Eve Barron in Melbourne. That card arrived on Christmas Eve and contained a few photos taken during my visit to Oz in February last year. All belated, but the one from John and Eve was most welcome.
The Barrons stayed in my home in Epsom and at my place in France in 2005. 2005 was a very good year to entertain Australian guests, unless you were a cricket loving Australian. Having Aussies as house guests was a special pleasure in the circumstances of England’s Ashes win.
During a party in my flat, an old work colleague, Tim Robertson, remarked of my good self, “I have known the sod for 25 years.” John, on his fifth Carlsberg, and swaying slightly, replied, “That’s nothing, mate, I’ve known the old bastard for nearly forty years.”
Those of a gentle disposition should know that ‘bastard’ is in common use among male Australians, and a goodly number of female ones as well. The adjective ‘old’ in front of the word makes it a term of affection. ‘Miserable’ on the other hand is a different matter.
John was right; we met in 1966, newly commissioned in the RAAF. There were two others in the same intake; Ed Blake and Thomas Keen. In retrospect, I can see that we four were intended for high rank in the Provost Branch. The best laid plans of mice and men, however. Ed went mad, and was arrested by the Police waving a firearm around. Thomas became a divorced alcoholic. I simply settled for divorce. John Barron reached Wing Commander rank and was appointed Provost Marshal. And we have kept in touch ever since, mostly by e mail, but also in Australia, Britain and the US. Well, I have kept in touch with Eve. John sends perhaps one message in ten. Eve writes in English, John in Strine.
At the fag end of 2006, I received one of John’s rare missives. “Listen, mate, I think the bloody Australian Government may have a bloody medal for you.” He gave me a web site, and I logged on. In due course Royal Mail stuck a postcard through my door. ‘You have a packet to collect; there is £10.04 to pay.’
This was my Australian Defence Medal. I queried the £10.04 and was informed blandly that was Customs duty. I fumed for days before writing to HMCR, they of the missing discs. I explained that it was iniquitous that a defender of freedom and democracy should be charged duty on a long delayed recognition of his sacrifices. They agreed and sent me a cheque for £2.04, explaining that the Post Office had charged eight quid for their handling. Needless to say, I protested to Royal Mail and they, God bless ‘em, sent me another cheque for eight pounds. Victory for Queen and Country.
Wg Cdr Barron, RAAF, retd., was not finished. Yet another e mail. “Jesus Christ, mate, the bloody government must have too much dosh; there’s another medal you can get.” So, I went on the internet again and as the man had said, my Australian Service Medal, with South East Asia clasp arrived in late October. Two medals, thirty four years after leaving the RAAF. Bloody amazing, mate, as John might say. There was no Customs duty this time. There was case law in the matter.
There is a little footnote to this story. My oldest friend, Stewart Donnogan, whom I met at school in 1950, had joined the RAF and served for thirty-seven years. He was a Flt Lt and was awarded Zilch in the medal department. I served six years, was also a Flt Lt and got two of the little buggers. Not fair, is it? As they say in Oz, belated greetings, mate? Better than a kick in the arse.
AND THE WINNER IS…….
Written by my Father B.M