This issue is about growing up, emerging from the chrysalis of boyhood into the dawning realisation of what it means to become a man. I spoke to my 93-year-old father about this. He left home at 16, in 1942, to work for an aircraft company making Typhoons during the Second World War. He recalls seeing the first jet prototype flying overhead. He remembers saying goodbye to his mother on their dairy farm and not seeing her again for a very long time. He set off with a swag bag and stayed in random shared digs, where he was provided with breakfast and supper. In 1940, before he left home, while he was still at school, he remembers seeing soldiers returning from Dunkirk.
He came of age during the war. His own father had fought in the First World War and he says that he would never talk about what happened, as it was too overwhelming. My father’s working life spanned through different aviation companies and ended with him working at British Aerospace on Concorde. He has every book on flying and fight magazine known to man, and he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Area 51, moon landings and other space stuff. He developed a love of jazz and photography. This is a tiny glimmer of a life well lived. His boyhood progressed at a completely different pace, lived in fear at times, and wonder at having survived it all. He reckons he wouldn’t do it any other way.
A boy back to the wall
He saw them walking
The river dammed
The crows over the plane trees fell from the skies The woman on the stoop
Tears not owing The tractor
The boys quelled
The ink drying
They could taste despair A raggle taggle
Up Main Street past the school Weary bleary
Some scrap of joy
To the wind and sea salts of France The train cold
Only the guard
His wits and whistle
The tiny pea stuck in the steel throat Mustering
Enough to lift a sound
And the men walking on Nunney And the ghosts walking with them And all the old souls at the castle Knowing this know
Waving as the soldiers went by
Is there any hope
Oh the silence
by Alison Veness
Issue 14 of 10 Men Australia is on newsstands today.