But while reading can fashion dreams, alone it was never enough to put potatoes into the saucepan. Thus, I also learned at an early age what sweating in the bush was and that axes, bars, shovels and grubbers weren’t a prop. The value of hard physical work has remained with me as well as its rewards. Nothing ever tastes quite so scrumptious as the food you grow.
My father fashioned the work ethic at his 157-acre Mt Samson farm in the Pine Rivers shire some 22 miles north-west of the city GPO. This venture occupied all his time outside of work as an itinerant labourer and then a postman. Nothing that Dad got was given to him. “Hard work never hurt anyone,” was a Percy Smith gem.
From 1964 until early 1966, I attended Salisbury High School, with the family by this stage having moved to a slightly larger home in working-class Coopers Plains, five miles to the south of Annerley.
Wearying of school at fifteen, I was frog-marched into an apprenticeship in February 1966. Four years later as a fully-fledged tradesman fitter and turner, it was disconcerting to find myself looking for a job. Mechanics was not my forte but had to be made so.
At just nineteen, in April 1970 I travelled to Christchurch New Zealand in pursuit of a first love I had met there on holiday earlier that year. With the ardour waning by September, I took to sea on the cargo ship M.V. Kaituna as fourth engineer.
Over the next eight years, marine engineering sent me to much of the Far East and its near neighbours as well as the west coast of the USA, Canada, most Australian ports and many others in New Zealand’s North and South Islands.
Following a collision when proceeding into Vancouver Harbour on the M.V. Erawan, fate steered me on another course through the encouragement of a brilliant Canadian attorney who I came to know only as “Mr Cunningham”.