The Glebe Stories Project

[I´m Andrew, I don’t live in Glebe but my friends and I have been running this little jazz club every thursday for about ten years]

My parents met in the mid-sixties, when they were in their mid-thirties.

Leo was working for the tax department, living in Waitara, just him and his mother, which is still a good way to save money, and he had bought a house.

Leah was living alone in Hurstville, she was a teacher, and she was blind.  She was the first blind student to officially enter a government high school in NSW, the first blind student to receive a scholarship to a teachers´ college in NSW, and won the first scholarship in the Rotary district 275 International Student Exchange project, enabling her to undertake post-graduate studies in special education in the United States.

Leo didn’t like the culture of his work, but he got the job of helping people who couldn´t do their tax on their own.  And so one day Leah showed up at his window, and he helped her with her tax, and asked her out.  For a couple of years they courted, wrote letters and went to concerts and worked through their differences.

Then, in 1966, they decided to get married.  And just before they did, they bought a house together at 167 St Johns Rd.  The title deed (almost unreadable) is in both their names, probably the last official document in Leah’s maiden name.  The house is just up the street [from the Cafe Church Space], opposite the Roxbury.  It’s still there, a skinny terrace with a new fence and a nice coat of paint.

A couple of months before I was born in 1970, they bought 175 Arundel St – a house with no stairs, much safer for raising children.  It´s still there too, down among the one way streets at the far end of Glebe, and it looks like hardly anything has changed since then – the front gate would have been old when they moved in, and it´s older now.  They bought two more houses (4 David St and 34 MacAuley St) and had two more children, and they always talked about what a happy time it was – one or both of them were studying, they were renting out three houses, all within walking distance, and all the tenants were friends.  Rent day was a series of students dropping in for cups of tea, babysitting me while mum and dad did the shopping.  Dad was giving up his job as a tax man to become a teacher, mum had graduated.  There are hardly any documents of these years – no need for Leah and Leo to write letters to each other, no time for more than a simple local life with their children and their neighbours.

Then they moved away from Glebe, and for a few years their friendships turn back to letters – stories of flatmates lost and found, degrees finished, breakins and finance arrangements.  It´s obvious from these letters what great friendships they had with their tenants and their real estate agents, and it was lovely to find all these letters in dad´s handwriting and mum´s (equally distinctive) typewriting amongst the title deeds and mortgage documents after they died.

by the time I was 5 they had sold all these houses, and neither of them ever lived in Glebe again.  But when i was in my late 30s i met Cathy, and she was living in Glebe, and I moved in to Lombard St with her.  And when my parents would come into town we would walk through Glebe and they would say “You were born in that house” or “we used to walk you around that park in your pram.”  I got involved with Eight Oclock Sharp, and Free For All, and Colbourne Ave.  And for the last couple of weeks I´ve been reading old letters and studying old maps and floor plans and riding my bike past the houses of my parents first happy years.

and that is my story.

the last days of leo francis

<– back to my mum died

the Last Days of Leo : a eulogy by andrew

i might add some more words and pictures of leo soon, but for now there’s this:

Firstly, i would like to acknowledge the Darkinjung people who are the traditional custodians of this land.

eighty years ago today, in the front bedroom of a house on the pacific highway opposite waitara station, Leo was born. his mother was 31 years old, his father was 49. his big sisters clare and dorothy, and his brothers George and Jack, were all at home. it was a very windy weather, very rainy, and the scottish midwife said to clare “come in and see what your mother’s got.”

he lived at home with his family until he was 18, when his father died. he continued to live there for another 18 years, until he married Leah. people said he’d never be able to marry a blind woman, he hadn’t cooked himself a meal or ironed a shirt his whole life. but it went ok. he lived with leah in glebe, albury, the solomon islands, and umina for another 18 years, until leah died.

i’m going to pre-empt the new testament reading now. i’ve told lots of you how easy leo was to care for, what a generous and gracious patient he was. and sitting with him over the last few months i keep thinking of the words of 1 corinthians 13:

Leo was patient, Leo was kind. he was a gentleman. always early, always polite, always well-dressed. he didn’t care what he looked like, he had no shame, he’d be happy to go to the theatre in his undies (although that’s another story). but he wanted a party to look good, he knew that if you’re stepping out with a lady (or a female impersonator) you should make an effort. let that be a lesson to you young chaps. i’m not a great nurse. i don’t know how to roll a person over, i’m no good at wheelchair transfers. the first week dad was out of hospital in november he thought he was in a hospital in the third world – he had a hospital bed in a whitewashed room, with no routines and me and phil for nurses… i think the standard of care had dropped so much that he thought he was in india. but when he was sick and needed help, and when we weren’t very good helpers, he was so patient, so kind, so appreciative of us being there. we’d apologise for our keystone cops approach to nursing, and he never complained.

Leo did not envy, did not boast, was not proud. he kept his light under a bushel. he made anonymous donations (except where there was a tax advantage, in which case he’d make donations in the names of people who needed the money more than he did). he threw parties for others, but never for himself. he was proud of leah, proud of his children, but when the limelight fell on him he didn’t want to know about it. one night cathy and i were drinking at the angel place hotel in george st, and he said “the last time i was in here i was packing a gun” – he went on to speak about his youth, how he and his friends thought they were tough, thought they could walk around town with a gun. another time cathy asked leo if he knew george freeman, the standover man, leo said “oh no, thank goodness, i would have been boasting all over town that i knew george and got myself beaten up”. sometime in the next forty years those attitudes changed, i have heard lots of stories from his wild post-war youth but in all of them he repents of his youthful pride.

Leo was not rude, was not self-seeking, – he was welcoming, accepting, hospitable, generous. he must have invited thousands of people to stay, friends and acquaintances from near and far, i’m amazed how few people have accepted. i’ve seen him sit with people who were so rude, i’ve seen him wait graciously on people with no grace, and i’ve never seen him ask for anything in return. so many times in the last month someone has come over, one of you, and he’s been in his wheelchair, unable to stand, and he would apologise for not getting up. did i say he was a gentleman?

was not easily angered, kept no record of wrongs. actually he was angry about the burning of the great library at alexandria. and he was pretty angry about the big banks, the insurance industry, children kept behind razor wire, but for his friends he was endlessly forgetting, always giving another chance. last night i asked Phil what leo was angry about, and after i had said a few of the things on that list he said “i was having trouble, i was trying to think of something closer to home, but maybe there is nothing.”

Leo did not delight in evil but rejoiced with the truth. he has a whole bookcase devoted to miscarriages of justice. the Stuart case, the “Bringing Them Home” enquiry, the Mickleberg Stitch, Robert Johnson the boxer… come over and have a look. films too. Rabbit Proof Fence and One Night the Moon, The Fringe Dwellers and he had an enquiring mind, he loved a mystery, loved a good car chase – but he wanted to support those who were invesigating real mysteries, forgotten injustices, hidden crimes, in the hope they would be brought into the light.

Leo always protected, always trusted, he worked hard for the dismepowered. many of you know him through st vincent de paul, or youth angle, or … he was good in institutions – working for the tax office, he met my mum on the counter where they provided free help to people who were unable to do their own tax returns. teaching at TAFE and in the solomon islands, he had lots of stories about students who he had to shield from the rules. in the solomons he had student who asked for a few days off because his wife was having a baby, and was refused. leo told him to go, and for the next three weeks he forgot to mark the roll every morning, until the day the student returned – then he remembered, got out the roll, and asked the class whether everyone had been present for the last week. that young man had got a lift on a copra boat to his island, then taken his wife by canoe to the hospital in bougainville. he had worked the copper mines for two weeks until his wife and baby were ready to be discharged, then caught a boat back to TAFE. the principal thought he would go home and never come back, but leo trusted him.

always hoped, always persevered. he had plans and schemes my dad. we’ll never know many of his secret plans now, we’ll never know all the ways he hoped the world would change. he called himself cunning. he made plans to improve our lives, complicated plans which he didn’t reveal until it was time. so many theatre tickets he bought me before i started buying my own, so many flyers in my letterbox, so many reviews for Performance Space and Bangarra Dance, reminding me of the things he wanted me to appreciate. he worked slowly on his dreams. i’ve seen schemes play out over decades, and i’m know he had half baked plans which are never going to be finished.

i’ve run out of words now. come over to his place after mass, we’ve got some lunch organised and some music, leo’s bedroom is just as he left it if you want to spend some quiet time there, and we can tell each other stories.

but leo’s grandson josh has something to say, and he’ll speak for all of us.

–> Leah’s memoir

my mum died

<– back to the last days of leo

My mum died

It was a shock to all of us, and i know lots of you talked with her last week, which makes if very hard to believe we won’t talk to her this week. It’s very strange.

but my mum wasn’t one to wait around for an invitation. And she wasn’t one to dilly-dally over a decision. And she found it hard to leave things until the time was convenient to anyone else. She died as she lived: bluntly, without warning.

And that is how she always expressed her love, bluntly. She presented gifts out of the blue, objects which had significance to her. we were ordered to take care of them. She schemed schemes to improve our lives, and i know many people found themselves on the receiving end of those schemes.

Her love was in her presence, her words, her poems, lately her emails. She made endless visits all over the country – she would travel any distance for dinner with a friend. And she passed on that love, and that independance. On good friday i was in Canberra, Matthew was in Melbourne, Philip was in Adelaide. We had all spoken to her on Thursday, and we were all with friends when we heard

She feared nothing, my mum, nothing and noone. We were more afraid for her than she was, which turned out to be crazy. For all our fears that she would die by walking under a bus, by falling off the train station, or be killed in a car crash where she was the driver; and for all her fear that she would die slowly, losing her mobility, her ability to communicate, and most of all her independence; after all the deals she made with anyone who she thought could keep her out of a nursing home, she died in the night, in her bed, at home.

I will finish my tribute to Leah with a tribute to the people who made her independent life possible. people who loved her with an open hand. Nan and Ray, and the whole Anforth clan, and my Dad. People who cared so much for her but didn’t let their concern become a prison, which so many people in her childhood would have done. She spent so much of her life fighting against restrictive forms of care, and with the help of all those who have loved her so openly, she has returned freedom to so many of our lives.

–> Leah’s memoir

Shakespeare The Stage

My dad loved this first one.  The infant, the school-boy, the lover, the soldier, the justice, and the childish old man.  I collected these for him.

AS YOU LIKE IT

ACT II SCENE VII The forest.

JAQUES
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

merchant of venice

act I scene I

ANTONIO
I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano;
A stage where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one.

GRATIANO
Let me play the fool:
With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come,
And let my liver rather heat with wine
Than my heart cool with mortifying groans.
Why should a man, whose blood is warm within,
Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster?
Sleep when he wakes and creep into the jaundice
By being peevish? I tell thee what, Antonio–
I love thee, and it is my love that speaks–
There are a sort of men whose visages
Do cream and mantle like a standing pond,
And do a wilful stillness entertain,
With purpose to be dress’d in an opinion
Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit,
As who should say ‘I am Sir Oracle,
And when I ope my lips let no dog bark!’
O my Antonio, I do know of these
That therefore only are reputed wise
For saying nothing; when, I am very sure,
If they should speak, would almost damn those ears,
Which, hearing them, would call their brothers fools.

macbeth

act V scene V

MACBETH
She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

 

Terry’s Childhood

an interview with terry kirkpatrick

16/4/2001

born in Newport “a small place on the fringes of melbourne”

he was in the meat industry, but there was a three year strike in the meat industry, then he went into business in the general store

there was lot of tension in the house… dad was inclined to drink…it worried my mother who as a very strict methodist… they loved each other and they got on very well.. mum nagged him to death and he got very abusive and we got very scared. dad never touched us, but mum used to lose her block a bit…

my mother had a family who lived in the ballarat district… she was a country girl through and through
durham leed via buninyong
grandma lived until she was 94, the three older girls used to have holidays with her. two sons lived with her, into her eighties she was cooking a daily roast dinner for these men who worked on the farm… we had a lovely time, she’d give us a basket and we’d collect the eggs from all sorts of funny places… she had a gooseberry orchard, we used to collect gooseberries and rasberries and strawberries it was so lovely. [lots of dinner details] no tv, no radio, no electricity, no water, we used to sit by candlelight or kerosene lamp and read the books that were in her library [funny story of the book about Paddy In The Police Court, which started her career as a performer]
two or three years ago i went back and a couple of cousins still live there, and they took me to grandma’s farm which is almost nonexistent except for part of the dairy… and the smell of the pines was absolutely overwhelmingly nostalgic, and it all came back to me just through walking through these things. they were very happy days, and imagine my mother getting rid of three kids for five weeks!
we used to have to go to ballarat station and we were met by an aunt… i suppose a cousin who rode a horse used to come and we used to catch a bus out to somewhere… and we used to trudge out to the farm…

father’s name was Fred but he was known as Mark

i was a bit too bright to be called elsie so they called me terry… my parents never used the new name. two of my sisters call me terry, but my eldest sister still calls me elsie

when we were growing up we were always together
eileen was the eldest… about three and a half years older than i… as she was growing up she caused a few headaches for my parents cos she liked boys and she liked motorbikes
and then dorothy was 13 or 14 months younger, and she was a very responsible person and has continued to be… always very well dressed, and very good with money always, and i was always hopeless
eileen got married early and went off, and dorothy and i were left at home… we’d go to skating two or three times a week… to the pictures… the rowing club… she eventually married a guy who was a rower. i ran in and said to my sister “quickly quickly get me a lemon he just put his tongue in my mouth”
nancy was born six years later i’m very close to her, we talk on the phone at least seven times a week sometimes even more than once a day. we just get on so well
we were living in a house attached to a business my parents had lost during the depressions… dad went off to collect mum at the hospital, we three kids were left at home, there was no such things as baby sitters, you didn’t even lock your door or close your window… but we sat absolutely petrified on a stool at the back of the kitchen table, i remember mum coming in with this bundle, her fourth child, and putting her on the bed…. in these latter years we’ve become very close…

when i was about 14 we moved to a closer to the city suburb, the lady next door used to say to my mother “you’re very lucky, owning your own house” they were always very responsible parents – that was footscray

williamstown is where i went to high school, we used to ride our bikes to school from newport

my father lived till 94… he had a fall and died of pneumonia two days later, which is very common…
i was pregnant with cathy when he was dying, and my husband took the phone call… i was over 40 and having a dicey pregnancy… my husband thought it would be dangerous for me to fly down so we drove… stayed overnight in albury… arrived just after dad actually died which made me a bit sad

Leo’s Grandfathers

leo‘s grandfathers:
one was a blacksmith, stole an anvil from bhp and carried it home under his coat. he drank a lot, one day his wife came home with the kids and he was passed out in the loungeroom holding the hose. they woke him and he said he was cleaning the house – hosing down the furniture. his wife (viv?) was a hard woman, she left him and moved to ?mereweather? and didn’t talk to him again. as far as they know he died of alcoholism.

the other grandfather died stepping onto a sulky. the horse bolted and he was flipped over backwards and banged his head on the road

leo says: “it’s good to be warned that you’re going to go”

Leo DickHughes

dick hughes playing piano on a riser at an RSL club, hitting the keys so hard that leo and two other guys had to stand behing the piano leaning on it to stop it falling off the stage

after the 2fc jazz session one saturday morning
leo: did you hear that session this morning with sidney bechet
dick: yes we recorded that a couple of weeks ago in paris

A Fateful Day, 1996

Thursday April 18, 1996

On this day, Rebecca, my love and my life, said that she had realised that her real personality had for years been suffering under the weight of St Matthias and evangelicalism (which we knew) and my own personality (which I guess I knew…). She had to get away from me and from anyone she knew, anyone who would attempt to influence her or tell her what they thought was right or wrong.

So she got in the car, got a YHA card, and went to Melbourne. That was what she needed, and it was good. I coped mostly because a few hours after she left, Paul rang up to say he had his internet access, and I found that so did I. And because I was working morning shift. So for a week, I got up at 4:30, skated/drove/bussed to the airport, worked, came home, explored my computer, and slept. Interspersed with time I spent with various people, mostly Rozelle [now Plunge] types and the neighbours.

Now (29/4) she’s back, but only somewhat. She got back to Sydney on Saturday the 27th, and has decided to stay indefinately with Melinda and Brenton (and Geordie). I saw her today for the first time in 12 days. We talked, and it was ok. If sad. We see a counsellor on Wednesday, and we both want her to be able to live with me, for the rest of her life, without her personality becoming lost. We both want the real Rebecca, but we fear that if I try to have her, neither of us will. Rebecca wants to work on the relationship, but the sort of work she’s been doing for years is bad. She needs to work not on pleasing me and being the right person, but on being herself, strong enough to escape the black hole of my influence.

Many years ago, in the midst of our tumultuous relationship at uni (just before our last real breakup, I think), I wrote a poem.

Elysium

I soared upon her back,
we rode together the wings of her passion:
diving towards the river styx,
climbing towards Elysium.
And under my guidance we shunned the pits of hell,
and under my weight we missed the joys of heaven.
I provided a stability not her own:
her flight became less erratic,
our paths more predictable,
until my weight became a burden,
and she dropped to earth.

I fell to the ground,
sobbing dispassionately for the clouds,
As she rose, unfettered,
to the peak of heaven,
via the pit of hell.

And she wrote something in her diary book, quoting my poem:

… He has changed and so has Lynda. I also see them differently. Andrew has learnt pain through knowing my mind and the love which he has given me without the possibility of it’s greatest, and only, fulfilment – the rest of his life with me. The tragedy is that I also love him, need him, but who he is extinguishes what I am. He takes away the loneliness, but also my self, since I can only see the world through his mind when I am with him. He cries now and I comfort him, while crying at his pain and fearing the future when he will be gone. But he must go if I am to live, and I wish that he needn’t.

We’ve been married for three years, and it’s exactly the same.



It’s a year later now. We couldn’t both have the real Rebecca. The counsellor was ok, as much as they ever are, and the friends were good. She’s lived in half a dozen places, and still isn’t ‘on her feet’. We talk, we begin to be able to laugh, we see our future as friends. I think of her the way I think of a few other girls I know and love, but who are not avaliable – and who I don’t think I want to be with anyway.

I found a poem by William Blake

Eternity

He who binds to himself a joy Does the winged life destroy: But he who kisses the joy as it flies Lives in eternity’s sun rise.