July 26, 2010
During both of my Australian trips this year, people have felt it necessary to tell me how much I remind them of my father. My mannerisms are identical, my appearance similar, my thoughts and movements mere echoes. Each tic I foolishly imagine to be my own turns out instead as just an imperfect imitation of something he used to do, only he did it better.
Reading back what I'd written for myself to say at the funeral, I had a bit of a crisis. Dorigen asked me to speak for her too, to read just a few sentences she wrote, and hers were so much more direct, more honest and connected, than the clumsy contrivances I wrought. My words sounded crass and trite and pontifical in comparison. Were it not for the press of time I might not have spoken them at all. But time pressed, and this dismal sermon was all I had to say:
From Harbord to Potts Point isn't all that far, on the map, by the easy route, as the crow flies. But, as anyone who witnessed one of his money-saving intercontinental itineraries will attest -- Sydney to London in 150 hours, with stopovers in Svalbard, Nome and Tristan da Cunha -- Peter wasn't really one for taking the easy route. His journey from one Sydney suburb to another went via every corner of the Earth and took 70 years.
Along the way, he collected, drew to himself, many friends and acquaintances and lovers and associates and families.
I'm here, I suppose, in some notional way, as a representative of the "family" family, and there is no doubt that was immensely important to him. It meant a great deal that Dorigen and Lesley and I could be here these last couple of weeks. He was a devoted and unfailingly loyal father, and I am immensely proud to be his son.
But it is also important that he had a larger family, to whom he was just as devoted and unfailing loyal. A family cemented by love and friendship, community and shared enthusiasm, a non-traditional family of which he was nevertheless, it seems to me, in many ways an old fashioned patriarch. Most of you here were members of that family, as were many others who for one reason or another -- due, in many cases, to the huge compass of Peter's journey and the vastness of the world -- can't be here with us today.
Some of them, some of us, now might seem to have good reason to resent some of the distance he covered, for the miles it put between us. Without question, it has been inconvenient being on the other side of the world in these last few months, with everything Peter was going through. But being angry about that would be, well, out of character, and in the wrong spirit, a failure to the man. Peter was many things -- generous and loving, opinionated and overpowering, conscientious, compassionate, cranky, idealistic, self-assured, erudite -- inexhaustibly, unstoppably verbose -- a raconteur, a bon vivant, full of vim and verve and vigour1 -- but never rancourous.
He threw himself into life and lived it to the full, and continued to do so to the end, despite the privations of the cancer and its treatment. He always found things to enjoy. And so should we. So we mourn him here, but also celebrate his life, the vast, strange, messy, inconvenient journey of it, the trackless distances covered, the families stitched together across it and the whole tapestry of who he was, as we should celebrate the world itself being so vast and full of wonder.
Just at the moment.
The world does seem a little smaller, and less wonderful, for the lack of him.
1. And other words beginning with V.
Just another thing I got from him, I guess: I blab on like a fucking Jesuit.
But anyway, it went down very well. I had people congratulating me on my speech all afternoon.
July 7, 2010
It's very early Wednesday morning London time, somewhat later in Singapore. I am briefly transiting on the way back to Sydney, for predictably dire reasons. On Monday I had no idea I'd be going.
This is definitely the shortest notice long haul travel I've ever done, and I can't say I like it...