Yes, we know, you’re all screaming for Rob and Jo to get back from Yorkshire so that we can have some fresh news’n’views on the front page. But in the meantime indulge Barry’s latest memoir.
With bedrooms to spare there were plenty of sleepovers for the grandchildren and when my eldest brother Thomas came in from the desert country he too would stay at mum’s place. But the loneliness between these sleepovers and visits finally came to a head when, in 1984, mum called me to say she was ready to move into the retirement village that had been lined up for her some months previous.
With the house on the market she sorted out and downsized to the essential bits and pieces needed for a very small bed-sit with kitchen in the Swan Cottage Homes Inc – just down the road from our place and next to where I worked.
Between 1984 and 1992 mum lived a semi independent lifestyle with the option of joining any of the village activities and tours. But in 1992 mum told me she was feeling less than secure living in the village and wondered if she should ask for a transfer to the more secure hostel accommodation located in the centre of the complex. Within weeks her wish was granted and she was transferred to a second floor bed-sit with all meals and entertainment built into her fees. At 91 years mum was the oldest by far of all the other hostel residents.
It was late summer 1996 when the Australian vox populi was being asked which way it would vote in the forthcoming Federal Election and every would be politician and Prime Minister was strutting his or her stuff across the land. Among them was one ‘Who Would Be King’ by the name of John Howard. In fact, he wanted the top job so badly that he must have covered every square mile of this country in his endeavour to reach his pinnacle of political success. One of his many ports of call was the Swan Cottage Homes in Bentley, Western Australia and he had especially asked to be introduced to all the residents. That’s right, all of them.
In their wisdom the ‘Cottage management team decided that all of the 150 residents would be brought together in the giant sun room with the oldest of them sitting in the front of the gathered group. Mum, being the oldest of them all, took centre stage – so to speak.
The day came and was bathed in bright sunshine and the residents were assembled as planned. John Howard arrived on time and was introduced to the staff before going across to meet the residents. Mum told me she was pleasantly surprised because the ‘Would Be King’ standing before her presented far better than his TV image. What’s more she even told him which, according to the hostel staff, was greeted with laughter all round.
Moving amongst the assembled residents he was baled up by one lady who said to him, in a voice loud enough for all to hear, that ‘They should be ashamed of themselves’. John Howard did what all politicians do in these circumstances – either frown, nod, look thoughtful or smile as if in complete understanding of the subject matter. After a few well chosen words as to what he would do for the aged in Australia should he be elected he waved a fond farewell and headed out into the day and perhaps another aged care centre.
Later, when mum was enjoying a nice cup of tea, the lady who had spoken to the man ‘Who Would Be King’ – and had aired her anger at whomever they were that ‘should be ashamed of themselves’ – came and sat next to her. Mum said she just nodded a friendly smile and kept on enjoying her cuppa.
It seemed the lady had not finished telling her story. She went on about how her grandchildren and children, who lived out of town, visited as often as they could. Even the nice Mr Howard took time out to call and say hello to her. But as for those other two, well ‘They should be ashamed of themselves because not once have my mum and dad visited me since I came here’.
After a long pause my mum asked the lady when she was born. With a vague look in her eyes the lady looked straight at mum and replied ‘85 years ago. Why do you want to know?’
My mum was still smiling when yours truly turned up about one hour later.
John Howard? Yep, he became King.
See you later…
January 31, 2005