This short memoir tracks the author’s lifelong trek from Australia to England to New Zealand and back home.
Debut memoirist Parker’s granddaughter asked for an account of her great-grandfather’s life (which is included as a short addendum to this book). But her request sparked Parker’s urge to recount his own. Born in 1925 in the small Australian town of Carcoar, New South Wales, he went on to at least three careers as a navy man, a merchant seaman, and a teacher. He was a mediocre student but an avid athlete who didn’t get a high school degree until late in life and then went on to university. Early on, the family—father was a World War I vet and a traveling “picture-show man”—moved to Sydney, so young Parker became an urban kid with roots in the country. We learn about his friends and casual enemies (fistfighting seems to have been a popular pastime) and of all the sports that he reveled in. We follow him over the years to England and New Zealand and back home to Ianthe, the girl he finally married. The last chapters are the saddest but the best. Ianthe suffered from dementia and he couldn’t care for Ianthe at home. He felt guilty for having larked about while she raised the kids and kept the home going (one wants to say, “Please don’t beat up on yourself so!”). After a health scare, his desperate and humorous attempt to have chickens for a bit of company ended badly. But in his facing old age and loneliness head-on, we do come to really like this fellow. It’s the best part of the book. Fuzzy black-and-whites from family albums add charm. The anecdotes often fall flat, and the punctuation is very strange, often not just distracting but genuinely confusing.
The memoir stalls in spots, but Parker is a likable, sympathetic narrator.