Sunday, November 18, 2012

From Chris Field

Early Memories with Roger

As I reflect on life without my brother Roger, I realize that I am now the person who has known Roger the longest. Roger had a wonderful memory and would often say, ``Chris, do you remember...''. He would have a clear recollection of something from our childhood which I hadn't thought about in years. I felt I wanted to write down some of my memories of Roger up to and through our teenage years.

In the beginning, he was conceived in the summer of 1944 when I was about 15 months old and we were living in Liphook near Portsmouth. I think this would have been just before Dad's ship headed for the South Pacific. In January of 1945, a very pregnant Mum set out with me across he stormy North Atlantic in a small tank landing ship. The U-Boat's were again becoming very active and Mum was sure that our ship would be torpedoed or break up in a storm. We did however make it to New York with no obvious way to get to Bermuda and I suspect not much money. Mum managed to get us to Miami and then we flew by a PanAm Clipper to Bermuda where Roger was born on March 2nd, 1945. I'm told our return trip to England a few months later was very rough and Roger was terribly seasick and developed a dislike of milk which persisted as we grew up. Roger's beginnings both in vitro and early life had some dramatic sea journeys which sandwiched a tranquil few months at San Isidro with Granny.

My earliest memories are of living in Shoreham by the Sea in 1946 and early 1947. The beach across from our house had been mined during the war and had barbed war along the top of the beach. We were told some child had managed to get onto the beach and had been blown up. Needless to say Roger and I were both terrified to go near the beach. Fortunately it did not deter from our love of beaches and the water later as we grew up.

In  March 1947, a very pregnant Mum set out for Halifax with Roger and me in steerage on RMS Aquitania. Apparently Roger and both had come down with whooping cough just before embarcation but Mum managed to stifle our coughs until we set sail. The plus side was that we ended up with much better accommodation in the sickbay for the voyage. Not sure how Dad managed to get Mum to agree that he could travel over on his own.

In mid-October of this year while visiting him, Roger said he like to read me a poem he had just written which was probably only meaningful to me. When we were living at the cottage in Purcell's Cove, we would walk with Mum through the woods to our Aunt Monnie's cottage. There were some nasty dogs which always barked at us and made us rather fearful of dogs. We also passed a small dump where would pick up tin cans to play with on the beach. Roger recalls Carnation cans as being the best. We'd fill them with water and have cans of cold, warm and hot water (not quite sure how hot we could get the water in the sunlight). The poem described this experience and Roger said it was probably his earliest memory. He would have been 3 at the time.

After moving to Sydney in 1949, Mum suffered from some culture shock and Dad agreed that she could take we three boys to Bermuda in the spring of 1950 to stay with Granny at San Isidro. We met and played with our Brooke-Smith cousins, Phillipa (my age), Bruce (Roger's age) and Robin (Nick's age). The next door neighbours in San Isidro had a pet monkey which got loose one day and jumped on Roger and scratched him quite a bit. It was certainly very traumatic and he had to get some shots at the hospital across the road. I celebrated my 7th birthday in San Isidro and Michael Douglas came since his Mum was a good friend of Mum's. For some reason, I threw a temper tantrum while Roger enjoyed playing with Michael and the other children. Even at this young age I never recall Roger throwing a tantrum while I apparently did it quite regularly according to Roger.

Back in Sydney, we lived at 160 Whitney Avenue and had a nice long gravel driveway leading up to the garage. Roger, Nick and I spent many happy hours creating roads through the gravel for our collection of dinkies. The back alley which ran behind the house provided a great environment for hide and seek. I remember one back yard was quite overgrown and had many daddy longlegs. An older boy told us that these insects would sew up our mouths. We certainly believed this for quite a while and were very fearful of this overgrown lot.

In December of 1954, we boarded the RMS Saxonia and travelled to England for Christmas. There were now four boys and we were shown off to our grandparents in Birmingham. Dad's bother Michael worked at the Cadbury factory and our visit there was a child's delight along with visits to the ultimate toy store, Hamlyn's on Oxford  Street. When we were staying in North London at Woodford Green, there was a snowfall and being Canadian boys Roger and I went out to make snowballs and throw them at passing motorists. We hit one car whose heavy set and well dressed driver stopped, puffed up and shouted some rather unflattering comments about young hooligans in our direction. I don't recall either of us being too intimidated.

Around this time, Dad and Mum purchased to farmhouse at Northside East Bay overlooking the sandbar. The attic was a treasure trove (in retrospect probably an antique picker's delight) which contained a marvellous canvas kayak. We spent many hours in the water tipping over the canoe and kayak and coming up underneath. A rite of passage was to swim to the sandbar. Roger always seemed to be a better swimmer than me but we did our initial sandbar swim together. I think we were true water
rats. The local Indians had a ceremonial site across the Bay from us and I remember, Roger and others of us exploring this site by daylight after hearing loud dancing and singing wafting through the night
air. It took all our courage to walk into the woods half expecting to find Indian bodies.

As we reached early puberty, we were introduced to the intricacies of the female anatomy by our precocious neighbour Ann at East Bay. Not having sisters and being pretty naive, Roger and I were intrigued. Roger seemed to be a better student than me and I recall Mum lecturing Roger about the influence two Harrison Avenue girls were having on him. At about the same time, Roger and I were in the changing room of the YMCA and we were all fooling around when Roger cut his groin on the locker handle. I remember hushed conversations between Mum and Dad hoping he hadn't damaged his ability to have children. As we know, he hadn't.

I cannot recall Roger and I having a serious fight as we grew up and it was not because I was easy-going. As an early teenager I continued to throw temper tantrums and I was only cured of it by having Roger and Nick laugh at me as I stormed on about some injustice I felt I had endured. Even as an early teen Roger was showing the qualities which made him such a excellent family man and educator.

I will truly miss Roger. We were able to talk easily about things past, present and future and he brought a quiet wisdom to all our conversations. I will always treasure my memories of Roger both distant and recent.

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