To: Stacey Marchenkova
Sent: Thursday August 20th, 1999 9:21 AM
Subject: RE Your Dad is a legend
Yes that’s a little tragic. But in fairness, Da’ is a hard act to follow. He’s a Londoner; a true cockney – grew up during the war – he was there during the blitz too.
See he was shipped out like the other kids when the bombs started to fall. He went to the country with a small suitcase and a packet of toy soldiers.
But he didn’t last too long in the country. For come supper he was forced to put his soldiers away and eat his vegetables.
Now my father hated vegetables. He had avoided them all his life. But the country folk he was billeted with where stubborn too. And when he refused to eat his greens they forced it down his throat. And when that didn’t work they forced them into his ears.
Needless to say when he informed his mother of this madness she took him back to London quick smart electing the sporadic Luftwaffe bombing patterns over Yorkshire logic.
Back in London, my father settled in quickly. He started work as a Messenger Boy; traversing the rubble and broken frames of the houses.
Inded he tells a great story about delivering a box of Cigars to Winston Churchill.
Okay maybe not a great story as that’s about it.
But I like that he met him and got a good tip too by all accounts.
Another story he tells, takes place after a big delivery of chocolates and theatre tickets to the Piccadilly Escorts. He just finished his shift and met his girlfriend at the Lyons Corner Teahouse.
During a Knickerbocker glory they started discussing their future. Was marriage on the cards? Was my father going to be a delivery boy all his life? Are there such things are delivery men? What was my father going to do for National Service? Where were they both going to go a have a private late night cuddle?
After this debate, the two decided that perhaps a smog drenched, lamplight snog was in order, a quick and youthful fumble quietly hidden among the bombed out buildings.
So they snuck off, hand in hand to to the various pits of destruction.
Soon they discovered the perfect place. It was a bombed out block of houses in the East End. The brickwork was shattered like broken teeth and the brickdust of the past lingered around ghoulish talons of the begging homes that cast shadows onto the knobbled streets.
Pavements where shattered and deep holes of excavated bombs pock marked what was once the smooth and pre pubescent skin of a more peaceful childhood.
Indeed when I see it now, I am so deeply influended by photography, that the scape is vividly painted in black and white, still warped with contrast and layered in loss.
And in this image my father is hand in hand with his girl looking for a place to claim as a trysting room to kiss the war goodbye.
Soon they found it among the ghosts of homes; a lounge room with fire stained carpet and charred black chairs. They entered into the space cautiously and respectfully aware that not that long ago familes shared meagre suppers and talked football.
But as they were about to settle into a moment of woo they saw a man in the distance. He was moving cautiously and cat-like around. Perhaps cat-like is too strong as this man held a large picket-like sign; waving it for all to see. And cats can’t read and write, right?
Anyway, soon the man with the sign neared, so my father decided they needed a more private place; perhaps a place with at least a standing wall.
So they left the ashen room and moved further into the battlefield.
Soon they found another house with a back wall still standing. Again they tiptoed over what was once a kitchen with tin plates warped from the heat and collapsed lone metal kitchen sink, its taps functionless, pointless and nude without a water supply to partner with.
Here, my father took his girl in his arms. Her breath was still sweet from the Lyon’s treat. But as their lips touched they saw the man with the placard sign again.
He was nearer this time and still waving his wooden Standard with victorious fervour.
So they decided to find one more place; something perhaps a little more secret to taste and comfort each other.
Carefully they left the kitchen and strayed deeper into the crag.
And soon they found a crater deep enough to hold two babes.
It was a recent crater; igntited by an unexploded bomb and the fair and pungent flesh of Old England mud was still moist and weeping.
My father was the first to climb in. He said it was like entering the womb of the dead. The sound was muffled, ten feet down and the smell was damp like a wet dog.
He called up to his girl; that it was safe – not the Ritz but it’ll do.
After negotiatioing, he managed to carry her down. She was not hapy about this dirty pit but my father comforted her with his Messanger Boy arms; slim and scattered in hair.
Soon their lips touched. They hadn’t kissed that much and the warm affection was still Tesla coiled and truly electric.
But just as they were about to go for an intimate personal record, the Man with the sign suddenly plunged down from on high with Icarus burnt wings and his placard like a Blimp Sky Rudder flailing the air currents and failing.
Fortunately he missed both my father and his girl by inches and slumped onto the erasured brickwork. His sign flapped solidly on his chest, writing side up.
My father’s girl screamed. It echoed around us; deafening in its whirl and suffocating.
But soon she stopped and all that was left was the moaning of this messanger from Marathon – his feet bloody in his cheap shoes, his hair caked in red cement dust and his body creeping with the lividity of soaked London dirt.
My father cautiously went to him. He asked in a broken ease, if the Man was alright. The Man moaned once more, pointing at the sign as if they could be his last words. My father’s attention was drawn to it and took in the words neatly painted on black.
“Beware of the hole.”
My father then looked at the Girl who was now crouched by the side of the slumped puppet Mercury.
“Look.” He said.
He pointed at the sign that was now moving up and down with the Man’s breath. The girl took in the sign.
“Beware of the hole.”
She blinked a couple of times. “That’s really cruel.” She said.
My father nodded; aware that the laugh in him would surely be met with rightful contempt. “Let’s get him out.” He suggested.
And soon all three were safe and taken care of. Shortly after my father told me he split up with the girl not through choice but life just simply got in the way. He went overseas and she got pregnant to a guy two doors up.
But as my father tells that story, I can sense there is glee. No one died, he got to kiss the girl and irony gave him a lens of strength to always see misfortune as just another joke.
And this is why he is a great man. This is why I love him. And this is perhaps why you feel the same.
I miss you too
PS Ofenbark is looking out the window, hoping you might come by soon. Will you? You must.