73 Whitepit Lane

She’s bought now, three-up, three-down,
A place of rest for them, Mount Joy beckoning,
And what do I ponder on, now for me at home?

Will they rage at night, their ageing feuds extended,
Or will they be at peace, one for the other?
I think they still will battle, I wish each fair strength.
This land is dry, hot winds sweep the gums,
Fires rage inland, the soil has ulcers;
But it’s for her I weep, full of Mum and Dad and me.

And also for soft rain, for a low dark sky,
And sweet green grass, soothing a childhood sole,
And old shillings of bathwater, grudgingly poured.
I have seen her like the smudge on the horizon
Passing from the castaway, ignorant to his plight,
Quite still to the eye, soon a trick of disappearance.

Better that I think, ‘She’ll always be there’, like a
Mother hardly dialled or a church bell ignored.
Only, there she is, and here I am.

Hunters Hill,
9th October 1994

People often ask me why I left Australia and usually I say, truthfully, to be near the grandchildren, or grandchild as it was in 2004. But about ten years earlier I had a different yearning for England, having lived away for 25 years. (It’s not generally known that one quarter of British immigrants – especially the Ten Pound Poms –  returned home, so when it did happen I wasn’t in a small minority.)

In the northern autumn of 1994 I made a business trip to the US, and as usual tacked on a visit to see Mum and Dad. They had just moved in to a semi in Newport, Isle of Wight, and to help them out financially I had bought a third share. It was the first property I had ever owned in England, and it happened to be in the town where I was born. Travelling back, I realised how much I was attached to the idea of the house, and began to imagine how it might be to live there. A friend comforted me by comparing the house to your mum whom you called much less than you should, saying: ‘Despite that, she’ll always be there.’ Notions of house and mother got rather blurred after that.

Mount Joy is a nearby cemetery where my maternal grandparents lie in a shared grave.