‘I was a fifties groupie.’ My mother’s tell-all confession.

Recently a customer asked how we could be sure that an inscription and signature on a book really were by the great Lew Hoad.

I was a bit surprised by the certainty with which my mother said it was. She said it was like other signatures by him we had, which didn’t seem like a strong test to me since they might all have been faked.

That’s when the confession came out.

In 1952 the Davis Cup final was in Adelaide at Memorial Drive between Australia and the US, the two giants of the event. My mother was a school girl working in town during the Christmas Holidays. One day in her lunch hour she picked up from a newspaper vendor a copy of the program for the final. The team included the youngsters Ken Rosewall and Lew Hoad, who were not to play in this final, but were integral to Australia’s success in others a little later. Lew Hoad was a bit of a bad boy on the scene by the sound of it. Brilliant but erratic. And my mother, like thousands of other Australian girls, no doubt, was in love with him. So imagine how excited she was when, her program clutched in hand, she discovered a bit past the newspaper vendor a crowd by the Town Hall, there, it transpired, because the Australian Davis Cup team was coming out. She grabbed the opportunity to get Lew Hoad’s signature – well, those of the rest of the team too, I’m sure my mother was polite about the whole thing.

Move along a few years and my father threw out the program! At first I was shocked by this, but I see it all now so much more clearly as I rethink it. Jealousy. Lew Hoad never knew my mother’s true feelings, but my father must have. The way she held the program to her bosom in bed was probably the giveaway. So, no doubt about it, that signature must have been burned into her brain and we can take her word for it. If she says ‘That’s Lew’s alright’, it darn well will be.

And if those feelings aren’t as ardent still as they were 65 years ago – she started explaining why it was that Lew had a bad year in ’54. And she told me the story of the early 1970s computer which established – on what data we know not – that Hoad was the greatest player of all time. Still is, she said last night.

Postscript: My mother recalls that she was the worst singer in the world, but that at the time she was in love with Lew Hoad, one of the big songs being given airplay was Embraceable You. And yes. You’ve picked it. My own mother went around driving everybody crazy singing Embraceable Lew.

My nephew, the terrorist.

Well, you only have to look at him, don’t you:

James and Cathy at the Pash Papers Launch
James and Cathy at the Pash Papers Launch

Would you trust this face if you saw it trying to board a train in the London underground?

London’s finest left nothing to chance. They swooped, they carried him off, they, well, I’ll let James tell the next bit:

..I probably shouldn’t have argued my rights (which I did politely, I should add), but once proved in writing I accepted the fact that civilians no longer have rights in England under section 40 or 44 (I forget) of the new Terrorism laws and I did everything they asked of me without a struggle. This involved being pushed against a wall, removing my bag, jacket, jumper, shoes and socks for inspection and then having the joy of being touched in areas of my body that have been lacking physical human contact by anyone other then myself for some time.

I think that’s quite enough of where THAT line of thought is going, so I’ll cut James off right there. Ouch. Maybe that IS the wrong thing to say under the circumstances.

Anyway, the point is, and please take a good look at these two mugs:

Which one do YOU think looks more like the terrorist?!
Which one do YOU think looks more like the terrorist?!

Should I mention that James’ day only got worse from here?

James, You can ALWAYS come home. We all miss you!!!

Varapodio – Calabria

Last year my brother Bernard and his wife Sarah visited the town from which our grandparents and their family migrated in the late 1920s. It was then a village. It was only a brief visit, but still, he said he felt at home – like the men sitting in the town square knew he should be there. Unfortunately with not a word in common there was little they could do but smile at each other.

Some of my father’s siblings were born in Calabria, some, including Paul, in Australia. He has never been back and we have so far been unable to discover if there is any family connection in the town anymore.

Here are some shots.

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