I grew up in the same place as the Australian actor William McInnes - Seachange, Kakoda, My Brother Jack. He strikes me as a nice sort of man, the type I consider a real Aussie bloke. No he’s not ockerish and a lot of them aren’t. He seems pretty laidback and tells a good yarn: see his memoir A Man’s got to Have a Hobby. He loves his family, isn’t pretentious, is a bit sporty, and stands up for what he believes in.
All this reminds me of myself in the opposite gender of course. The place we have in common is Redcliffe, 45 minutes drive from the centre of Brisbane, by the sea, a peninsula nestled among the islands of Moreton Bay. It is a beautiful spot and within one hour’s drive of some of the world’s most beautiful coasts and hinterlands.
We didn’t have a lot of class division in Brisbane, most people were working class or lower middle class, particularly where I lived. I never really thought much about what people did for a living or the type of houses they lived in when I was a child. Life was simple: we all enjoyed the beach wherever we lived, no matter who we were, or what our parents did for a living.
We chased fish in the shallows, got fresh oysters from the rocks to eat, swam and beach combed. Days with our parents were spent boating and fishing. I helped my parents with “fishing duties” like catching yabbies Dad pumped from the sand for bait and helped clean fish.
Holidays were in the caravan at nearby fishing spots, day trips to the Sunshine or Gold Coasts and occasionally going off to Moreton or Stradbroke Islands with my friend Deb and her family to dive for shells in the shallows. My imagination was captured by my parents’ love of the environment and nature: it gave us identity and meaning.
I believe that place is a part of “being me”.
I was a classic Aussie kid and I had classic Australian parents. My father loved cricket, had a beard, swore a lot and called other blokes names like “Horse” and “China”. He liked a few beers in his younger years, was loud and passionate, and he lived to fish. His father was a Greek immigrant and fishing was one of the few things Poppy kept from the “old country”. He brought it with him on a long sea journey, and it fitted in very well with his new country, and then he passed it on to his children - my father.
My father loved being near the sea. I hated the fishing most of the time but loved the water and the adventure of getting away to hidden fishing and crabbing spots sometimes for all the night or trips out on the bay far from land in the aluminium boat.
Mum was hard working, upfront with people and loved to talk. She grew up in the 50s in an area not far from Brisbane city that used to be bush and farms. Her father was Finnish immigrant and her mother heralded from the D’Arcy clan of Bega.
Great grandma’s uncle was supposed to have started Bega Cheese. My mother loves to reminisce about playing in the bush and swimming and fishing for freshwater yabbies in creeks while growing up.
The tales of her parents and twelve siblings remind me a bit of Tim Winton’s novel Cloudstreet: poor, struggling but somehow finding joy in the beauty of the natural surroundings making life rich and a distraction from the harshness and struggle.
Her father cut the trees and built the home they lived in. They didn’t have electricity till the 50s. She would often go into the bush with her father to chop trees for building and firewood. The bush captured her imagination and was a part of her. It has never really left her and is part of who she is.
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