Monday, May 30, 2016

Pop's 80th Birthday

On Saturday evening we held a party to celebrate my Dad's 80th birthday and I wrote a poem for the occasion.

Here it is:

Pushing Eighty: The life and times of Peter Holt

In 36 at Healsville Peter Holt was born
Son of Merv and Evelyn and Merle's little brother
"He was always pinching me" she told me once with scorn
A ratbag kid, once crowned with a breadboard by his mother

The family moved around from Dixon's Creek to North Fitzroy
Always on the run or on the track
Growing up with cousin Danny suited the boys
Til TB claimed the life of brother Jack

Merv liked buying cars and telling yarns
He worked as a bus conductor for a while
Later on he had horses in the barns
But a tractor selling farmer cramped his style

Peter's youth was misspent around Northcote
Lifelong mates were made in Brunswick and Fitzroy
Rabbit shooting and a Royal car salute
While a certain young lady had her eyes set on the boy

Allan Davies and Peter often shared a joke
about their little mate Grimshaw
Each disowned the little bloke
He's not my mate he's yours

Dad's told me many times how fortunate you are
If you can claim three or four lifelong friends
He found just that in Allan Davies and Keith Grimshaw
Frank "Abo" Johnson and Neil McQuinn.

Peter and Jacqui got married in 1956
While he plied his trade under cars and bonnets
Marriage can be harder than winning gold at the Olympics
And theirs was no Shakespearean sonnet

But it did produce some long lasting blessing
Birchip is famous because Alan Holt was born there
Birchip? Where's Birchip you're no doubt asking
Just head north west til you reach the middle of nowhere

Vicki arrived in a soup can two years on
Mark and Bruce followed soon at PANCH
Settlement Road Bundoora was our home
And Peter worked at the local Goodyear branch

In 1966 the Holts took a major step
Packed their bags and headed for Geelong
As the newly appointed BP Rep
Peter's career was surely moving on

No more Ron Barassi or Teddy Whitten
We kids now barracked for Geelong
The footy bug had well and truly bitten
With Polly and Wadey the Cats looked mighty strong

Through BP he met a lot of folk
Fergusons and Harwoods I recall
But one name stands out no joke
The Banfields were the closest of them all

Late night chess games with Al
Lorna's jokes and pranks
Both Mum and dad are lifelong pals
For 50 years of memories we give thanks

Saturday mornings playing golf at Yarra Bend
Gold Cross Golf weekends were nice
But Peter's swing caused wonder to his friends
Uri Gellar had nothing on his slice

In 1970 Peter and Jacqui parted
8 Fork St  Brisbane his new abode
A new life with Julie started
As proprietors of BP Cavendish Road

That's where a strange bloke entered their gates
When I say that don't think me a meanie
For years now they've been best of mates
Cause everyone loves a mad Greenie

We spent each Christmas up in Queensland
But the floods in 74 had us stranded
An extra week of holidays unplanned
Til finally in WA we landed

A year of turmoil and family unrest
Resulted in me moving to live with Dad
It was suggested that would be the best
But I don't think I was really all that bad

We lived in a little town called Rosewood
Not far from Pa and Auntie Ada's place
The Caltex servo provided the livelihood
Hockey with frogs and Julie the ping pong ace

Next was Gentle St on the Darling Downs
Express Rubber Stamps and a school bus run
One urgent Sunday morning caused giggles and frowns
And solemn threats to the kids they'd better keep mum

One holiday trip to Carnarvon Gorge
saw us flooded in again
Until an enterprising farmer we'll call George
used his tractor to pull us across the drain

Three years was all that any of us could stand
and in 78 I headed back to Perth
Dad and Julie sold up, bought a 4WD and a caravan
and set off to explore the best country on earth

Before they set off on their trek round Australia
One sad event had touched the whole Holt clan
Peter farewelled his Mum in Nathalia
and we said goodbye to our much loved Nan

Their travels took them from one side to the other
From the top end to the bite and the red centre too
Their journey rivalled the Leyland Brothers
But it almost ended when they climbed Uluru

Something strange happened as they travelled the country
Was it the water or the air or just getting rusty
Suddenly Pop's music taste was nothing but country
Cranky Franky was gone and in his place, Slim Dusty!

Years later when living at 74 Duke St
More tragic than the last stand of Custer
Every year come rain snow or sleet
Pop could be found at the big Gympie Muster

After scouring the country on a journey most thorough
Peter and Julie decided they'd better settle down
So they bought a little farm just outside Maryborough
Where they nearly went crazy chasing sheep up and down

Life on the farm was pretty terrific
But didn't quite make ends meet
So they started to work for Pacific
Taking school photos all over the state

Then came the saddest part of this tale
From which Peter still bears the scars
What caused his second marriage to fail?
After a road trip home from Big Pa's

Peter and Julie went their own separate ways
And Dad felt lost for quite a while
But the road that took him to Tin Can Bay
Turned his life round and brought back his smile

The people he met and the friends he made then
Brought him out of his sad depressed state
Like Margaret and Lyle and Jackie and Ken
And wearing dresses with Albert his mate

From Tin Can he moved to The Palms with some friends
and lived there for a year or two
When that good time came to an end
He bought a Queenslander with an aromatic view

Peter loves Marilyn Monroe
and has a soft spot for cowboy John Wayne
He has all their movies on video
and watches them over and over again

A few years back I introduced him
to a thing called blogging on the net
HoltiesHouse became quite a passion
As folks from all over the world he met

He'd never been sick was something Dad used to say
For years and years he was totally well
Then he woke up one morning to find with dismay
He was Facing a palsy called Bell's

That was annoying and a bit of a hassle
Because no-one had a cure or an answer
But it soon took a back seat as well
When Pop discovered he had cancer

Bowel cancer was the shock diagnosis
The family rallied to his bedside
Radiation chemo and operations
And a bag to carry at his side

Dad breezed through all of the treatment
at the end the doctors gave the all clear
He knew one thing that that meant
The value of having his family near

If the mountain won't come to Mohammed
Mohammed knows what must be done
So Peter put Duke St on the market
and bought a little house in Geelong

A monster garage sale soon followed
Boxes and cartons were packed
After the last drop was swallowed
Our hero once more hit the track

Now he finds himself back in Geelong
Nearer to family and his favourite girl
The only sad part of the story
Was the loss of his beloved Merle

For the last couple of years when we've nattered
A phrase he's oft repeated is "Matey
Take it easy, it just doesn't matter
Don't you know that I'm pushing eighty?"

One last mystery remains to be told
And I tell it with a curious bent
How come his name is Peter Holt
And not Peter Mervyn Flint?