The black Morris Minor of the 50s really enjoyed this back road. Slipping and sliding along the gravel, cutting through eucalypt forests, hiding behind embankments, threading its way south. Dad would be singing one of his old favourites from his Dean Martin catalogue. Always the same repertoire and never the full song. His memory, like mine, was limited to one verse and the chorus.
No songs today. Nick Cave is singing mournfully about lost love from the cassette player. We’re in dad’s 15 year old Peugeot, the last in a line of cars that fed his working class obsession with motoring. A 1949 Standard Four Tourer with its soft top was his first and his prized possession. This was followed by a Morris Minor (registration 673 800), two Volkswagens (one canary yellow - NLD 718), a series of Holden Kingswoods, a risqué sky blue “first release” two door Monaro coupe ( no number plate necessary to legitimise this one), and then his two beloved Peugeots – a 404 and a 405.
He’s with us today but, unusually for him, he’s not in the driver’s seat, He’s in the back seat between two of his grandchildren. He’s locked away in a plastic box 10 inches by 4 inches by 6 inches.
His journey to this back seat has been a long and eventful one; the story of a simple man with a great capacity for love and a lust for life. An everyman’s journey from the cane fields of northern New South Wales to the suburbs of Brisbane via a war and as many beaches as he could muster. A journey from the slaughter house floor of the abattoir via the life of a travelling salesman to the daily round of a postie on his pushbike until retirement.
How the life of a man of 5 foot 11 inches can be reduced to 240 cubic inches baffles me, but there he sits accompanying us on his last journey. A journey home.