Here’s what I found in the attic in response to the Leftovers blog
On 2nd June 1961 my mum, in her early 20’s, boarded the SS Canberra with 2,237 other passengers and set sail on its maiden voyage for Australia. Able to afford only a one way ticket and not much caring for the sea, I can only imagine the combination of excitement and apprehension. Anxiety that can’t have been eased by her father’s anger when he heard about her plans and his refusal to see her off.
She spent the next 6 years in Australia, working largely for the Daily News, experiencing plenty of what the country had to offer. A mixture of letters, recordings and one pre-planned phone call a year (her family back home in England didn’t have a telephone) was all she had to communicate with her parents and 5 brothers and sisters – oh for a facebook, twitter or blog!
She no doubt had some incredible experiences – many more than she’d every admit to her children. When she did eventually return, she was only able to bring with her a few treasures. Two items that stuck in my mind were a large bow and arrow set and a boomerang – both given to her by an aboriginal tribe whilst covering a story with her boss for the paper.
I first saw them when I was about 8 yrs old – an age when my parents could trust me to visit the attic with confidence I wouldn’t come crashing through the floor via a mis-placed foot. I remember the brutal strength required to pull the bow and the lethality of the tribally feathered arrows. But what fascinated me most, however, was the boomerang, which had been delicately carved and painted with aboriginal scribe. How on earth could this funny little bent stick possibly come back to you once it had been thrown. Impossible I thought. But the seed was planted and I knew one day I’d have to give it a try.
During a hot summer holiday day a few years later, I was off school and kicking my heels for something interesting to do and mum asked me to get something from the attic. So up I went and purely by chance came upon the bent stick. A light bulb went on – today this stick was going to fly and I would be the pilot!
With the boomerang stuffed under my shirt I strode purposefully outside and into the garden. The image you might have at this stage is a large open meadow with a few apple trees clumped in one corner and a crumpled looking hedgerow framing the view as far as the eye could see. Perhaps a more accurate image might be a square grassed area, size capable of parking 2 cars with a brick garage at one side (good for football I might add), a huge beech tree (always interesting to climb) to its left, a lamp-post (great for kick-stone games with the other kids) opposite and 2 cars parked on the drive providing cover on the final side.
At that age, little did I know that a boomerang requires more space than a yo-yo, but rest assured it was a lesson I was shortly to realise. My right arm drew back like a pitcher and with all the ferocity I could muster I sent it off into the distance. Well I’m sure it would have gone into the distance had the garage wall not provided an inconvenient obstacle.
The boomerang splintered into 2. I involuntarily jumped from side to side as if standing on hot coals whilst muttering “oh s**t, oh s**t” – inappropriate language for a 10yr old I might add. For a second or two I was so gripped by terror, I couldn’t function. My legs wouldn’t move, I couldn’t speak, blood drained from every limb. If candid camera had been present I’d have been carted off to an institution.
Eventually I strode up to the shattered stick and like all boys of that age pondered how to get myself out of the mess. First thought – who could I blame? Sadly a very short-lived thought. If Mum & Dad discovered the crime – that I had ruined a prize and irreplaceable possession, my life was surely over. I imagined that in all probability the bow and arrow might also get a first use in many a year, only with me as a target. If I couldn’t admit it, then there was only one other course of action. I’d have to try to fix it and hope for it never to be discovered.
So to another product young boys are rarely supposed to touch – unless accompanied by a mature adult – the superglue. The strongest glue the world had ever seen – strong enough to hold a grown man upside down from an aeroplane according to the advert, so strong enough to fix a boomerang surely – and I might just get away with it provided I didn’t glue my fingers together at the same time. A quick dab of glue on the boomerang, sandwiched between 2 books to keep it pressed firmly together and it was job done. Up to the attic to return it (and the accompanying books) and all was calm.
I was in the attic a few weeks ago and found the boomerang – still actually pressed between the very same books. Not by design, but because the books had also stuck to the boomerang – they certainly weren’t lying about the strength of the superglue. Maybe my son will follow in his father’s footsteps by one day attempting to throw the books & boomerang to see whether they all come back – now that would be interesting.
You might think I’d got away with it for all these years. Sadly not. A couple of years after the incident my Dad was clearing out the attic when he came across the scene of the crime. A roaring bellowing noise crashed down through the attic hatch as I was summoned – don’t know how he knew it was me, I mean it could have been my sister – but obviously parents just know. Mum came scurrying along to intervene. I’m sure with the intention of protecting her son from the angry attic beast. I prepared myself for my William Tell moment as Mum was presented with the evidence. Clearly upset that a precious gift from another age was destroyed, she turned to me and saw my distress – my remorse for what I’d done and my fear for what was about to be done.
She just smiled, patted me on the head and said “I’m not sure it ever really worked anyway. So never mind – it’s been sat up in the attic for over 20 years so I’m sure we won’t miss it. But you should have told me rather than trying to hide it and just tell me next time you need to use to super-glue as I don’t want a visit to A&E”.
I learnt a lot about being a parent that day and what’s really important. I hope when my children put me to the test, the boomerang and all it entailed come back to me. My mum passed away a couple of years ago and I never really told her how sorry I was for breaking the boomerang or how grateful I was for what she taught me. Thanks Mum.