Saturday, 12 December 2015

Dad's ensign

This is a photo of dad's ensign. An ensign is a flag used in maritime activities, and each country has its own special design. This is the Australian maritime ensign.

I found this ensign in a bag of old sailing stuff of dad's that was left over after mum moved out of their apartment  - which was located on the fourth floor of a standalone building - to another one on the ground floor of a different building. I took the bag full of sailing stuff back to my place and kept it in a cupboard. I took the ensign out finally after dad died and had it specially treated by an art conservator. He carefully dry-cleaned the flag and then mounted it on blue fabric before framing the ensemble and placing it under a sheet of glass.

Dad talks in his memoir about his sailing. He built his first boat when he was 16 years old with a friend of his, who was also named Peter. It was a Vaucluse Junior. Later, when dad moved to Sydney and decided to buy a house for his family, he would buy a piece of land in Vaucluse and build a house there. Then, in 1971, the family moved to another house in Vaucluse and dad started sailing Hobie Cats, which was one class of boat that raced out of the Vaucluse Sailing Club, which was where the Vaucluse Junior was originally designed all those decades earlier. So in a real way he returned to his roots in slow stages.

He sailed the Hobie Cat for many years, always on Saturday mornings, regardless of the wind and the weather. His main rival was a guy who ran his own printing business, which fortuitously was located in a building in Glebe just across the road from where I would live when I got to university. Sydney is sometimes a small town.

I was reminded of dad last night when I was talking about his story to someone introduced to me by an old friend. While I was telling the story I started to cry. Dad died in March 2011 in a nursing home on the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland. I don't miss him very often but I think that by returning to tears while just having a talk with a friend and his new acquaintence suggests that the ties that bind are fixed deep. Of course, I was drunk at the time. That might explain part of the emotional outburst, but not everything. Sometimes I see dad in myself. Sometimes I see dad in other people. Sometimes I remember something that dad said from time to time; we all have memories of reliable sayings that we attach through custom to people close to us. Sometimes I dream of dad; they are usually bad dreams, dreams of fear and retribution. In all I think I have gotten over dad. But I still keep his ensign on the wall. Perhaps it is to help me remember. Or maybe it's to keep away ghosts.

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