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.


One thought on “73 Whitepit Lane

  1. Hi, I was quickly searching the internet on 73 Whitepit lane to assess the market value of the house on various estate agencies web-site when I saw this picture. We have lived in number 73 for approx 10 years now and I had a second-take when I saw your picture. We now have a new red front door and surroundings and my kiddies have nicely painted the house number sign! If you’re ever in the area and want to pop in, send me an email and you can have look around and a cup of tea. Cheers, Mark

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