This is just a little story that has more truth in it than lies. It’s also for my Mother who is remembered in this house for dying on the 4th of July. A day we all remember. Most of my brothers and sisters will swear it is all a lie. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t matter a whole lot. And yes, I have told this story before just in case it is familiar. A
My dad was an angle file. Mum wasn’t. I heard the word used at the dinner table during some of those mum-dad dinner conversations. We, the kids, sat like those open-mouthed sideshow clowns with their head going left to right and back again and again while we pushed table tennis balls down the throats.
Back and forth, back and forth. These weren’t arguments – I never heard my parents argue. Not ever. But they told stories about before. That is before when we were much younger. They told each other about things that happened that day. Mum and Dad playing verbal tennis while we ate our lamb chops and mashed potatoes listening to all they said and understanding more and more as we grew older.
Over in the shed we had a lot of tools that everyone has on a farm. There was a great array of files and I loved them. Little triangular ones that dad used to sharpen small saws and big flat ones for sharpening the circular saw blade he used before people had chainsaws and very rough ones called rasps. But I didn’t know what an angle file was.
One day in year seven metal work I found out that a flat file was called a ‘bastard’ file. Oh joy, oh happiness. Next time, “John could you get me a flat file from the shed, please. To sharpen this saw?”
“Do you want the small flat file or the big bastard file?”
Oh how I loved saying that and oh how totally it was ignored by my father and I never bothered to say it again.
Another thing – Dad was afraid of heights. If the windmill needed grease it was always Mum who climbed up the ladder and did the work. And we weren’t allowed to climb things when he was around because he was afraid on our behalf. So we climbed trees when he was out in the back paddock ploughing.
When we were kids nobody we knew had ever been in an aeroplane but later in life as we merged gently into adulthood and civilisation it became common. But Dad wouldn’t fly in an aeroplane. By this time I knew that he not only had a fear of flying but that he was not an Angle file but actually an Anglophile. And if he hadn’t been the one but was still the other he would have dearly loved to go to England before he died. But he didn’t.
After the funeral I went to the crematorium and collected Dad’s ashes in a little black box. I kept them on the mantelpiece for a couple of years but then one day, I don’t know why, I wrapped Dad’s ashes in brown paper and posted them, airmail, to a friend in London with and accompanying letter asking him to send the parcel home after he had taken it to the Houses of Parliament and Churchill’s statue.
And when Dad got home from London we took him down to Lake Wendouree and sprinkled his ashes there with great solemnity and respect, but until today no one in the family ever knew that Dad, the great ‘angle file’ had once been to England.