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Chapter 11 – A SENSE OF FUN
Talking of great laughs and fun, the greatest gift my Dad imparted to me was a sense of fun. Life for Dad was very hard but he carried everyone along with him by his sense of fun. He and his young married mates all tended to be daredevils, hard working, hard playing, but never hard drinkers. I never saw my Dad drunk ever, although he did smoke on and off, I suspect to make Mum mad.
As I grew up and acquired my own tools, I continually complained,
‘Mum, Dad’s been using my tools again,’
‘Well, you’ll just have to lock up your tools and hide the key.’ Mum would try to be sympathetic, ‘I know how much you prize your tools, but you know what your father is with tools.’
I would often hear Dad proudly say to Mum, ‘The angels are looking after me.’
‘Len, that’s no reason to keep them on overtime,’ Mum would come back at him. Dad would smile and continue to dare life to do its worst.
Thinking of Dad and his lack of respect for tools’ turned my thoughts to Dad’s early beginnings. He was a twin. His twin was a boy, Lawrie; they were the youngest in a big family living in Southwark, Adelaide, where they owned a flourishing bakery.
Lawrie and Len moved to Mount Compass in the 1920s and somehow were conned into a doubtful land deal. In 1929, the year I was born, Lawrie was killed in a plane crash in Victor Harbour. Dad was supposed to go up for a joy flight but for some reason he declined. So Lawrie bargained with the pilot, ‘I’ll take Len’s place if you loop the loop with me.’
‘OK. I can do that,’ the pilot agreed.
The crowd watched in horror as the plane plummeted to the ground. There were no survivors.
‘Poor Doll, how is she going to cope with five kids to bring up,’ Mum said tearfully, thinking of the plight of her widowed sister-in-law.
‘I should have been in that airplane not Lawrie. Maybe if I hadn’t backed out of my flight he would still be alive,’ Dad blamed himself.
‘I’m glad you didn’t go up in the plane. I would have been the widow and struggling to bring up our four kids alone.’ Mum couldn’t bear to think about what she would have done.