It's been a few days too long since my last posting, and I beg your forgiveness. In my defence, I can state that I've been putting in 12 and 15-hour days on Legends of the Seeker, butg frankly a lot of that was down-time. If I'd taken my notebook with me, I could have spent some time tap-tap-tapping out a blog or two.
I have had several thoughts about things for the future.. and it's the future I want to ruminate on right now.
Because, yes, I have finally become a grandfather. Georgia (Gorgeous Georgia) was born on Sunday the 12th of July, at around 5.30am. Weighing in at a healthy 3.3 kilos, and with the designated number of finger and toes, she's apparently very cute. She obviously takes after her mother, who is actually more stunningly beautiful than cute, but one hopes that Georgia will grow into that.
It's odd, but I feel an overwhelming love for this child. I've not seen her, and the chances are excellent that I shan't see her until she's walking, talking, and exchanging Platonic sophistries on campus at Melbourne's university campus. Hopefully a little before then, of course. But it will be a while - and yet, I feel intensely protective of her.
When Adam first told me that Gabrielle was pregnant, I was so happy I could have farted. It was an exceptional day. The day he told me the name they'd chosen, I wanted to tell every stranger I saw on the street. But on Sunday, I nearly burst with joy after receiving the text announcing her safe arrival. And the following, on set at LOTS, I told one of my friends - and imemdiately word got around. Two of the kids involved in the shoot found out about it, and immediately adopted me as their "Set Grandad". That was very cool.
I know one shouldn't really over-analyse happiness. It should really just be something of the moment: but I can't help asking myself why I'm so damned chuffed. And, so help me, I cannotg come up with an answer. All I can really do is work on the knowledge that georgia will have a better father than my sons did, and hope that I have a chnace to prove to myself that I will be a terrific grandad.
It's likely I will post another blog today: it's afternoon now, and I had a spare half hour. I have some work to do on a couple of projects that I have also been neglecting, and mjust get to those.
In the future I am going to do a weekly TV commercial critique, and I think I shall be kicking off the first one tonight, when Jenny's watching "Coronation Street". Why such an otherwise perfect sheila would indulge in two hours of mind-rotting television every week I don't know - but it's a good time for me to get away and consider life, the universe, and Brighton Rock.
LISTENING TO: Jethro Tull, "Heavy Horses".
READING: T.S. Elliot's "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". I spoend a month every year trying to get to the bottom of this poem, and every year I find there's another layer of complexity.
WORD OF THE DAY: Georgia. Of course.
HENRY: Read on....
Mary’s legs disappear. They simply evaporate, like fog under a hot sun. She feels herself falling, collapsing, star-stuff into a black hole, and she sits flat-bang on her bum, and says “No.”
Charlie feels the blood leave her face, and thinks stupidly that she hasn’t put any make-up on and she must look like a ghost.
Christ. Ghost. Henry. Six months? No.
Henry takes a sip of the whisky, and sighs. “I got so scared, Mary. So scared.” He helps her up, and holds her. “I knew that I could cope, but then that silly boy had to rob the bank and then he shot me and I realised I hadn’t told you I loved you today and it could have been six seconds, not six months, and Mary, oh Mary.” He holds her with a desperation that neither one of them knew he was capable of. She smells warm, safe. A refuge. Six months, he thought.
“Why? What is it?” Mary asks. Her chin is up, she won’t say quit, she won’t say pax, she won’t say die. She is a rock, this woman. She is strong, she will not give in to fear.
“Brain tumour. The C.A.T. scan people think so, anyway.” Henry is calm now. Mary sits on his lap, her arms around his neck. Charlie leaves the room, heads into the kitchen. Tea, she thinks. Tea, a sweet biscuit or two with cheese, and a slug of Henry’s whisky. Tea for two. Jesus. Is this what he’s going to tell us? Of course it is.
She makes the tea, pours, and takes the cups back. Henry is sitting, holding her sister-in-law. Her sister. Charlie thinks: he is so gentle. The times I saw him on the footy ground, fierce and strong and proud and always, always so gentle. I used to love watching him play cricket, she thinks. Even if he is my brother, he was the most gorgeous man there: shining in his whites, wielding his bat like a toothpick, punishing any loose ball into the boundary.
And I’ve never known a day when he hasn’t loved this woman, my sister-in-law, my sister. Charlie can hear him murmuring to her, whispering into her hair. She turns to go back to the kitchen, but Henry raises his voice and calls her in.
“Charlie? Is that tea?” He says it and suddenly, just because he said it, and the way he said it, it sounds special. She knows instantly that she’s done something extraordinary. She nods, and brings it in. His smile is broad as he says “And I bet there’s some cheese and Crispies on the go?”
Charlie smiles. “Of course. I’ll bring them in.”
She fetches a plate, biscuits, cheese, the cheese knife, two more whisky tumblers, and the Macallan. She brings a small table over to the chair where her brother and sister-in-law, sister, are, and waits. She looks at them, at the way Mary’s face is buried in Henry’s shoulder.
“Mary,” Charlie asks, ”would you like a drop of whisky?”
Mary turns her face to Charlie, wipes a tear away, and grins. “You’ll never guess what Henry’s just told me.”
“I heard. Six months?”
“Not that. Not that. No. Henry’s told me that he wants to learn how to be a Hank.”
Charlie is dumbstruck, again. “A what?”
Henry’s voice rumbles from behind Mary’s hair. “A Hank. I’ve never had a nick-name. I’ve always been Henry. Not only been Henry – I’ve been a Henry. And before I die, I want someone to call me Hank. Just Hank. And spontaneously.”
Charlie is stunned. Henry wants to be a Hank? A skein of wool?
“What’s a hank?”
“Like Henry Fonda. Hank Fonda.”
The light dawns. Henry wants to be Henry Fonda. Wait - he wants to be artistic. Or brave, or strong, and he’s already all those things and more.
But he’s never been a Hank, has he. “Well, hell,” says Charlie, and laughs. “Why not?”There’s an electric air of hysteria about the house that night. Charlie called Wolf, explained the situation to him. He urges her to stay, and says “Scheizen” a lot. He had told Charlie once, a year or two ago, the Scheizen literally translated into “I love you” when said with the right glottle-stop. But if that was the case, Wolf loved pretty well everyone, including doltish drivers, rubbish-collectors who left half the week’s garbage around the bin, and even abusers of innocent apostrophes.
Perhaps he did.
After hanging up, Wolf dug out one of his famous twisted cigars, lit up, and then drank the better part of a two-litre flask of orange juice.
“Tomorrow,” he thought, “the schnapps. Tonight, perhaps, a prayer to my Bavarian nuns, on whose milky thighs these cigars are rolled.”
It was a night for waiting, for talking of dreams, of dreaming of love. Henry played a lot of music, laughed, drank, and didn’t get drunk. He made a phone call at three, and talked and listened and smiled, and told his son that he would be over in Greece soon to see him.
“Yeah?” said Adam. “I didn’t think you fancied the Greek Islands. Thought Mum’d do a Shirley Valentine on you.”
“Can’t worry about that now. No – I’d like to see those Gates of Fire, that Thermopylae place. And you remember us talking about Uncle Don?”
Don Talbot had gone to be a soldier, and had ended up being a part of the landscape in Greece. Not enough of him was found to fill a soldier’s pack, but a white marble cross with a silver fern and an astonishingly young man’s name had been put into a war cemetery not five hundred yards from where the German 88 millimetre shell had separated him from his life.
“Yeah,’ said Adam. “ ’Course I do.”
“Yes. I feel I owe it to my Dad to go and see where his brother died. Find the grave.”
“I can take you straight there, Dad. Me and Gussy went up there a couple of months ago.”
“Really?” Henry was surprised, and pleased. “That’s good. What are you doing now?”
Adam’s a little puzzled at this phone call. He loves his Dad, and even more important, he likes his Dad. But Dad’s never been one for a chat. Not on the phone, anyway.
“I’m out on the terraces, just below Gussy and Norm’s place. I’ve got the easel set up, there’s a nice French girl, Danielle, watching me – I’m looking dead Greek, Dad. White linen trousers held up with a bit a blue rope, long hair, tanned to buggery. I’ve known Danielle a while now. Polishing up on the parlez vous, nes’t paz?”
Henry imagined the scene. Adam took after Henry’s brother in appearance: lean and shark-like, with an eager, open face. “I don’t know that I need to hear too much about your sex life, son.”
Son? Dad never calls me son. Not unless – “Dad, is everything all right?”
And the conversation went on for another half-hour, with Mary grabbing the receiver every few minutes to make sure the second great love of her life was all right.
“Jesus, Mum! No! I’m not bloody all right! How can he tell me this? And anyway, it might be all up the boo-ai, eh. It’s not confirmed, is it?”
No, it hadn’t yet been confirmed, but both Henry and Mary knew that it would be. They said goodbye to their son, to their beautiful boy, and sat in silence a while.
At four, they went to bed, leaving Charlie with the tidy-up. Henry slept, and dreamed of ants crawling over his body, nipping his skin, carrying him away piecemeal to a destination he didn‘t care for.
Charlie sat at the table, and wept, softly, silently into the dawn.