At age 15, elated to be free
a prisoner of my naivety
and without qualifications or prospects
I began to drift . . .
Insulated against adversity
without goals or ambitions
I existed vicariously
in Pop’s expanding shadow.
I began my career
optimistically ignorant and innocent
a paradox in a suit and tie
waistcoat, snap-brim hat and signet ring.
Travelling by train
from Gardiner station
to Flinders Street in the city
I walked to William Street.
Employed as a temporary clerk
I assisted accountants
of invoices, vouchers and receipts.
We caught a bus
to General Motors
who provided Pop with a car
and days of drudgery for me.
with breaks for morning tea and lunch
and biscuits in the afternoon.
I was a mechanical marionette
with a calculator instead of a mind.
I always had another life
at different places, in other worlds
where I could fantasise
insulated from the daily grind.
It began with children’s stories
fanciful stimulating tales
freeing me from the world outside
so different from the one inside.
My love for the classics began
with themes from radio serials
Mendelssohn’s overture to Fingal’s Cave
and Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.
Movies were another delight
at the matinees on Saturdays
Disney cartoons and corny serials
Buck Rogers and The Green Hornet.
My school exercise books were scrawled
with pictures of Spitfire fighters
shooting down Heinkel bombers
and swastikas on German helmets.
Grandpa took us to see Dumbo
but because the cinema was full
we crossed the street
to see the Maltese Falcon instead.
Graduating from comics featuring Biggles
to Hans Anderson and the brothers Grimm
I became fascinated
by the mysterious and the macabre.
From Conan Doyle and Dennis Wheatley
to Poe, H G Wells, Mary Bysshe Shelley
and Dickens, Lord Lytton, Wilkie Collins
Ambrose Bierce and Sheridan Le fanu.
As well as Hammett, Chandler, Hemingway
Steinbeck, Faulkner and Mailer
Tolstoy, Dostoevesky, Kafka and Camus
with crazy Celine in between.
I loved the Newport Folk Festival
Tchaikovsky, Bach and Beethoven
Berlioz, Mozart, Mahler, Wagner
and the Trout Quintet by Schubert.
My fantasies overflowed
when I had dreams of a new career
as an army officer
standing proudly on parade.
To get a taste of army life
I joined the part-time C M F
and spent two weeks at camp
drilling and shooting at the range.
As that fantasy faded
I became infatuated with Sybil
a colleague at the office
whom I invited home to dinner.
Strap hanging back by train
until finally we were alone
and ardent in the living-room
where I could only inarticulately hover.
Eventually I walked her home
arriving at her street
where she left me abruptly – forever.
While recuperating from that disaster
Pop was extending our boundaries
by buying the adjoining land
with a home for my married brother.
Unable to qualify as an accountant
I was told I had to go
find another job
and begin somewhere else again.
A friend from Scotch
whose father owned a furniture store
managed to get me a job
as a despatch clerk.
I laboured diligently for a few dull years
lugging mattresses from the street
to the bedding department in an ancient lift
until I was dismissed.
Near the end of my drifting career
while vegetating lislessly at home
Pop suggested I train as an artist
at Swinburne Tech in Hawthorn.
I applied and was accepted
to begin the four year course
and try and justify my existence
to myself and everyone else.