To begin with some general thoughts on my career such as it was. I definitely think I had some writing ability but it's given to few people to realise their potential and I think I wasn't of that number. How you do in life depends upon luck, timing and opportunity. Some ruthlessness also helps. Bernard Shaw let his mother scrub floors while he was establishing himself as a writer. The British playwright, Willis Hall, let his wife support him through her secretarial agency while he sold an occasional radio play to the BBC Midland Region. When he had a big success in the West End he left her for somebody else. I couldn't do that and that could be a weakness.
At my best I think I was only a Second Echelon writer. I was in the forefront as a script editor but that obscure little trade didn't really account for much, at least in Australia. There was a time when Australian films were booming because investing in them was a tax rort. I might have made serious money at that time but I was out of circulation for 11 years with the South Australian Fim Corporation and a couple of stints at the Film and TV School.
Against that I had a certain amount of security in a precarious occupation. I survived, paid off a mortgage, bought cars and brought up three lovely children so who could ask for anything more? I started off writing prose, switched to drama and looking back I think that might have been a mistake although I might not have found the opportunities that I did so who knows?
Before getting to my own birth a few words about the odd detail that I know of my father's early life. He grew up in North London. His father was a solicitor. The only thing I remember him telling me about his boyhood was that they lived near the factory that made toy soldiers. He and his mates used to rummage through their scrap heap to pick up rejects. Of course they knew nothing about lead poisoning in those days although it doesn't seem to have done him much harm. He and his several brothers and sisters all sang, played instruments etc. they formed a small concert party that they called The White Mums because they all wore a white chrysanthemum.
After he left school he worked as a clerk in the offices of the Middlesex county Council. I think it was the Health Department. An incident from that time that he told me about was when one of his fellow workers did a crude sketch of a very pregnant woman and wrote "Mabel Lander when I've done with her." Dad went for him. I don't remember the outcome.
Dad played cricket and was a very fast bowler. He said that he used to break stumps. I can only think that stumps used in club cricket 90 years ago weren't too strong. One side certainly refused to play against him. He had a trial for Middlesex but wasn't taken on. When he was in his mid-thirties, not having played for years, and having been gassed in the war, he turned out for a game and was still quick enough to split the wicketkeeper's thumb. He had to have five stitches.
He was in the pre-war Territorial Army (Like the Australian volunteer reserve). I guess that he played in the band and that was where he learned drummng, something that led to a job as the drummer in the ship's dance band when he came to Austrlaia nearly 20 years later.
That's about it, I think. He was 22 at the start of World War I and went straight away. By the time he was discharged his health was wrecked and he was still only 26. There'll be more about him as we move through my own life.
Just before I was born he had to take a job outdoors because of his lungs and he worked as a labourer at the shipyard at Wallsend-on-Tyne. Later I think he had a job as a solicitor's clerk and was doing OK. My mother resented the fact that a Salvation Army officer told him that it was God's wish that he should work for them collecting door-to-door. I don't know how long that lasted but he worked for a moneylender before setting up his own business in that field. next