Wednesday, 14 December 2011


part one (longish blank-verse poem - all the rest are < 50 lines)
Poem 1 of 230:
0 - 19:  HELPED BY “THE OLDS”; SCRIBED 2000 A.D.

Another branch on ye tall English Tree
(Having three grandparents Mancunian,
And one grandfather up from Colchester), 
I was born in Manchester’s St. Mary’s,
Just before kick-off, on the World Cup Day
(Nine hundred years from that other battle;
And three hundred from London’s Great Fire)
When hosts England defeated Germany.
And I came out of the womb quite wounded:
A clubfoot to boot - my lighter left foot.
This Foot has not made me miss much in life,
But early on proved a bedtime hassle.

    My earliest learn-to-walk-and-talk years
Were based within a semidetached house,
Not distant from Didsbury’s Old Bull pub,
Nor the Cong. of my Christmas Day christening.
I can picture nothing at all from then
Save vague memory of going to bed
With my feet in bedding-tearing braced-boots -
Designed, I take it, to stop reclubbing.
In perhaps what was a first in-spite-of
(I have sometimes since gone against some grains),
Apparently I learnt to walk quite young
(Aided about by a walker at first,
Plus, it seems, surgeons who’d unclubbed me well)
And, enjoyed it so, was soon plonked instead
(Partly for the purpose of parental peace)
In a containing, back-garden, playpen -
Walls contented with, then contended with:
Student, wanderer; student, wanderer...

    Via request in a Northern accent
(A tongue soon to be kidded-out of me
Upon emigration to Australia),
I’d be walked with Sis. to “Feed the duckies,”
At places to which lately I’ve returned
(As partly has that long-lost first accent):
Fog Lane Park; the Mersey at Didsbury.
And, at night, first books were read out to me
“Again” and “Again!” by my Mum or Dad,
Alongside my first of hundreds of beds.
(In extension, I now like to study -
Read to write - publications at least twice.)

    In the first year of the “Disco Decade”
(Not back, to live, till Hong Kong’s repat. year -
Alighting on a sunny Swithun's day!),
Newly arrayed in a gunslinger’s kit
(Fighting or flighting home-grown discontent?),
Via Switzerland and a plane-bomb scare,
Before Tel Aviv and other short stops,
We four were greeted like many before -
Some two hundred years from Captain Cook -
At, in a Cockney rhyme, “Steak and Kidney,”
By, in an Aussie slang, our “relies,”
On, to my Olds, “A summer winter’s day.”
Such days, too, are beyond my memory,
Except playing with, in ray-lit air, dust -
The dust of a Waterloo high-rise flat;
From whence, with Sis., Mum and her Scottish friend,
Would be made weekly train-trips to Paddy’s - 
A market with, for mine back then, “Doggies!”
Doggies - those space wanting/needing cute pets,
That, at least through novelty time, kids love;
Doggies - some innocent shoe-soilers,
Others good fitness-mates of clean owners;
Doggies - some innocent traffic-risk strays,
Others kept and trained sanity-savers,
Sans choke chains or retractable leashes.
(These days, I’m with a “no pets” landlord’s rule,
Though, in my youth, I spent time with many.)

    Nature, nurture, or a knitting of both?
From this council-flat (I’m told by my Olds),
Wearing braced-trousers and a shoulder bag
(The latter custom has survived the years),
I’d often want to collect the mail -
To collect to Know my grandparents’ news,
To Know, I now interpret, of others:
Other places, other people - their lot.
(Plus, may I add, to at least try and help.)
And this links with desires to See things:
Years hence, during my maturing twenties,
I preferred plastics-work to electrics -
I could See the changed-shots of changed-settings.
And my Foot - ‘twas an infant’s obsession,
Leading me to grind, to self-improve.
Nature or nurture? No - a work of both;
To me, the fraction’s the question.

                                                               My Dad’s
Electrical abilities employed,
We moved to a Yowie Bay detached-house,
And I into Yowie Bay Infant School.
Now, in retained-fragments, I remember 
(“Spots of time," in William Wordsworth’s words)...
One spot, a tape of Peter and the Wolf,
By composer Sergei Prokofiev -
As thrilling as role-playing firemen
(If in the yellow-raincoat set, that is -
A “group-think,” in military language)!
Other spots are the crèche where Mum worked hard
(As with Girl Guides and Meals on Wheels);
An enchanting turtle in my school’s tank;
Early shoots of capitalism, like:
“My dad’s got ten billion million, so there!”
(These “shoots,” through all my school years, were well-fed -
While socialism was malnourished);
Old hopscotch, force-men-back, and hide-and-seek;
Plus esoteric doctors-and-nurses;
Ignorant cowboys-and-Indians games
(Again, sprouting from biased nourishment);
Playing a football-mix - betwixt the codes;
Sore young hands from training at Aussie Rules
(A good game - for me, began at too young);
Playing tunnel-ball with medicine balls;
And a first ruler-smack across the “Moon”;
Stars - stars, as carrots, for getting through books,
Stuck onto a competition wall-chart;
And kidding leading, from “lorry,” to “truck.”
Such was the start of my new ‘isation -
English Boy to Anglo-Australian
Or, now, Australianised-Englishman
(Either-nationals pick other background)...
Who, as a positive nationalist,
Respects and supports indigenous rights;
Who doubts economic emigration
Plus refugees not in their closest refuge
(That is, from this point in time on, at least);
Who is aware of medical reports
Re sunlight/Vitamin D and skin-tone;
Who attempts to understand history,
And make due allowance for its effects;
Who has heard the globe-as-melting-pot voice
(And, beyond English and Aussie training,
Is, frankly, much a product of the globe),
But likes cultures and borders, with fair trade
(Eco-travel and lore parts of such trade),
Via a stronger United Nations,
Including - his own - the English nation;
Whose anglicises is slowly regrowing
(Anglicises of the better kind, I hope):
Perching by experience and practise,
Appreciating unique home-plusses,
But fighting, in a Way, some home-dislikes,
Whilst remaining caring of world affairs
(Not forgetting worldly ills seen first-hand),
Thereby making something of it - this past.

    From hand- to foot-passing drills/New to Old,
I began seven years of club soccer,
And further years of callisthenic drills
(Team push-ups, chin-ups, sit-ups, and leg-ups;
Solo skipping and hopping on my Foot -
A half of a Morris dancer, of sorts!),
At the up-and-go-searching age of five.
Good times, mostly, for my family and me:
Nil-nil and latish in the second half
(And latish in my football career!),
A 12-years B-grade hard-fought grand-final
(Always trialled - never picked for the A’s),
My family closely edging the sidelines
(Extra feeling for my just-widowed Nan -
My Grandad-trainer-keenest-fan had died;
They having followed us from Manchester)
As they cheered and urged our team on...
And a long firm drive from outside their box!
Me slowish (hadn’t scored all year) but there -
There for this once, there for the deflection...
Off goalie to my boot and into net;
We won and played the next year as A-2's,
Earning “Most Improved Team ‘79” -
The Miranda Magpies, in the striped strip.
(Missing my Grandad’s interest in the game,
I stopped on a “7 Years Service” badge.)

    From a one-minute walk over the road
To a fifteen-minute suburban march,
Or, more often, a five-minute pedal,
My schooling moved to Yowie Bay Primary,
And, in some ways, the “nourishment” improved:
I recall films and projects on salmon -
Impressively muscling the river’s flow
(Hard-homing from the Pacific Ocean), 
To sow their seeds and die in calmer climbs;
Plus videos and projects on Bushmen -
The fine Bushmen of the Kalahari,
And (equally finely tuned to their lands)
Those of Aboriginal Australia;
A spear making-and-throwing contest,
Preparing fires for bush-tucker food,
Before a visit from the experts who,
After some indigenous chant and dance,
Showed easy us kids how things should be done;
And then being moved by a film - Storm Boy.
(Years later, at uni., I would add on,
To this and high-school narrative-study,
In-depth anthropological research -
Which involved, at last, socialist viewpoints -
On Aboriginal society:
That is, both pre- and post-colonial.
Partly, as has already been hinted,
We are products of self-experience,
And the latter strongly influenced me -
From support for native cultures and rights,
To other conclusions and where I live.)

    As well as soccer, through primary school,
Were goes, of varying scope and depth, at:
Softball - one (not so soft!) flat on my nose,
Thereby tonne-heavy for a lengthy time;
Touch- and, sometimes, tackle-type rugby league;
Snooker and pool, darts, and table tennis;
Go-carting, cycling and skateboarding;
Beach body-surfing and pool lane-swimming,
Or diving and ducking in backyard pools -
Plus whirlpooling in our small round one,
To easily scoop-out the centred leaves; 
Long-course runs, like the Sutherland-to-Surf;
Cricket - in a low grade, carrying-bat
And managing to spin the ball both ways;
As well as pastime games, like dominoes
(Including group-effort long-chain toppling),
Hula-hoops, yoyos, Rubik's Cube, and draughts.
Plus, at the end of these fun years, tennis:
Down by one match-point and five rapid games,
In an A-grade junior tennis comp.,
A match against an old sparring partner,
His team and my team all well-acquainted -
A local derby of Bill Gilmour’s school
(Bill Gilmour of world refereeing fame);
The previous-season's grand final lost
By my wayward backhand in the doubles -
All sessions and sweat to no avail!
I began giving the ball some more air
(Slow things down, when down/and speed up, when up),
And, that time, it worked - seven games to five.
(I didn't go into senior comp.,
But have returned to tennis for pleasure.)

    From the Primary motto “Justum Tene"
To an “Ardentibus Nil Ardui,
Port Hacking High was my next schooling site;
With test results just above average
(As with the tennis and other sports comp’s),
A school report labelled me “a battler” -
Dedicated but lacking “confidence”;
Latter is, surely, partly conditional,
But it’s true that I choked in some exams -
Yet to learn the fine Art of perspective,
That saw me better through tech. and uni.
(“A late bloomer” hindsight reports might add),
Helped me shoestring through say forty countries
(“Say” for the world’s boundaries sure have changed),
Plus reach the station of “works manager.”
And this “fine Art” came hard to me from chance,
Plus learning, in time, to cope with chances:
“Look, he’s wearing one of his sister’s shoes,”
He laughed, pointing. “He’s got a girl’s shoe on!”
This event chanced upon me in first-form,
And was to do with my shorter left leg -
Or the high-heel lifting it equal.
I left the playground of that “knowing” group,
And learnt to cut cardboard-insoles instead.
(So far, I have suffered little back pain,
Having lifted, I gauge, my workshop share -
In perspective, a minor injury.)

    From the school of knocks to schooling in sex -
The “esoteric doctors-and-nurses”:
What do teachers say/what don’t they say?
I remember, “If it’s not on, it’s not on”;
As well as, “Getting off before Central”;
And brief talk on other contraceptives.
I don’t recall being told the age-law;
Nor about foreplay to get wet and hard,
Before either guides it slowly inside;
Nor how sodomy, being much tighter,
Is more risky re blood-borne diseases;
Nor any mention of alternatives,
Like mutual hand (with oil) massage;
Nor of Her need for post-sex affection
(Equally strong as His need to finish?).
But perhaps enough by teachers was said
(In words I can no longer remember),
For pregnant teens must have been rare - if there;
And when AIDS arrived so did Grim Reaper,
Warning on how many, from a germ’s view,
Each of a couple may be sleeping with.
And, as for my school-sexuality,
Male friends have always been non-sexual
(Friends, rather, in music, sports and suchlike),
While hetero-sex came not till late teens.

    On, from “doctors-and-nurses,” to farmers,
Oklahoma! - an end-of-year school-bill
(Signalling Americanisation),
With a neighbour in a leading song-role,
His family giving tickets to mine -
Was my first viewed stage-play of any kind,
And, though I’ve seen few since, I liked the form
(If not the Americanisation)...
Something for when I'm more settled, maybe.
Other plays - non-musical - through school were:
Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll,
On migrant cane-cutters’ concerns;
Plus, on power, Williamson’s The Club.
And, as for my own theatrical roles
(Beyond the jams with my musical friend),
From high-school forth, I’ve liked bathroom warbling.

    P.C.s, too, were embryonic back then:
When I began those six formative years,
Within grounds walkable from home (again),
A small computer-room had just opened,
With two terminals per the assembly,
Available for lunchtime usage -
I.T. yet to be taught in school classes;
Among the few - “Tech-Heads” - that took the call
Was a friend who guided me to BASIC
And simple key-games like Formula One,
Loaded firstly by tape, later by disc.
(But for brief clicks at tech., uni. and work,
I’ve lost touch and have never surfed the Net -
Finger-walking a library, I gauge.)

    “Try to nut-through and get the gist of it.”
So spoke one of our science schoolers,
In reference to a theory of much complaint.
Getting to Know more-and-more my limits,
I soon took to - and still take to - gisting.
Testing and strengthening this newly-found Way,
In English classes, were the study of:
Judith Wright’s, and Kenneth Slessor’s, poems;
The novel, The Getting of Wisdom,
By Henry Handel Richardson;
Plus, adding to past primary-projects
And preluding uni. work (as above),
Aboriginality in Coonardoo
(Novelist - Katharine Susanna Prichard);
as well as the previously-mentioned plays.
(“What, then, is the writer saying? And how?”
An English teacher repeatedly asked.)
And there was another schooling in Gist:
The general gist of our misdeeds -
Written and written, down and down a page,
During lunchtime or after school, even!
(Smoother the paper, more will the wash run?
Or, from William Shakespeare’s Claudio,
Within Measure for Measure, “Liberty:
As surfeit is the father of much fast”?)

    Leading me out to a bit of Nature
(“A bit” compared with the likes of Wordsworth
Or, indeed, latterly, Attenborough -
Who, with all the good, chooses storytelling,
At times, over scientific account,
For wildlife documentary footage..?),
Throughout primary- and early high-school,
Was involvement in Yowie Bay Cubs and Scouts,
Culminating in a Perth jamboree -
Reached by my second long jet-plane journey,
And including a circular joy-flight,
In a small feel-the-flying aircraft,
Somewhere around what seemed a huge campsite;
Further pursuits were orienteering,
Or just hikes for views and other such ends
(Now, increasingly, for the life passed, too -
Along with natural history T.V.,
Old Poetry influential, once more),
Canoeing and kayaking on rivers
(I’ve thought about the Mersey or Irwell,
In-between Manchester and Liverpool...),
Plus knotting and other “rites of passage.”
Adding to such outdoor experience
Were fun family coastal holidays,
To places both north and south of Sydney
(There was also one to New Zealand),
Which included fishing and sightseeing,
Plus the simple thrill of staying anew.
And Nature-flashbacks are the usuals:
Gumtrees, teatrees, wattles, bottlebrushes;
Kangaroos, cockatoos and cicadas;
The hard-laughing kookaburra chorus...
Plus the cracking storms (ending sultry days),
Some blown by Southerly Busters.

                                                                At home,
Early or late in these summertime days,
Breaking from study or such indoor things
(I did, and still tend to, take briefer-breaks
Around half-past each hour - for hours),
I’d go out to the quarter-acre block
That ran down behind our bungalow,
Within walk of boat-lovers’ Yowie Bay,
In Sydney’s lawny Sutherland Shire;
Once just a means of some sporting practise,
My interest in the garden blossomed, 
From lend-a-hand lawn-mowing and -edging, 
Into composting, mulching and weeding, 
Before pruning, plant types and, finally,
Pelargonium species collection.
(Now, in cooler and more-confined soils,
I grow, and shape, some Hedera helix,
Plus push for native- and veg-planting.)

    Meantime, my wartime-trained Dad was growing
(His spare time spent, well, at an easel, too)
Much of the simple fare I now consume:
Fine for the body-growing-years before,
Throughout later high-school, and well beyond,
My choice of foods was, frankly, wrong for me -
I had bad acne on both my face and back,
From too much sugar, meat and milk intake,
And building top-heavy on a clubfoot,
With, linked, high-protein foods, was no wise try;
When at home, at least, I’m a vegan now;
A teetotaller - but for scarce events;
And a non-smoker of any leaf-type -
The slight calm not worth the cost and the throat
(A calm reached freer from just thought-control).

    When the ball-size changeover was starting,
During third-form I took to playing golf
(“Thought-control” test if ever there was one!);
First ‘twas done solely as a P.E. sport
(Struggling hard to get the thing off the ground),
Then whenever I could find the free time,
By sixth-form as a junior member,
Before - how now - as a keep-card hobby
(That has replaced stamp- and coin-collecting):
Ninety courses played, in eighteen countries,
And some six single-figure scores, so far...
(A perplexing perpetual pastime.)

    I learnt to drive a car during school, too:
Found much easier than the golfing kind!,
'Twas soon used to steer a small sedan
As high as Thredbo, for Kosciusko;
As far west as Fleurieu Peninsula;
As far south as temperate Tasmania -
Crossing via the ship Abel Tasman;
And as far north as tropical Queensland -
Returning, partly, via a freight train.
Also, some years before my driving test,
I became a naturalised citizen,
Along with the rest of my family -
Though I, being underage at the time,
Didn't declare allegiance to the queen,
As head of our old and new nations.
Either way, I had little care back then
For the politics and symbols involved,
But, these days, am against monarchism
And pro regulated competition,
Along with social cooperation,
Including social security for all.
(And I now Know of Milton plus Cromwell:
Early, competent, brave republicans.)

    After high school came an apprenticeship
For Electrical Fitter Mechanics,
Which was unfinished but not unfruitful,
As some subjects later gave exemptions
Toward one of my tech. certificates 
(Preferring moulding to wiring, as said);
Plus, as it was a quite highly-paid one
And as I was based at home during it,
The earnings enabled the shoestring-travel,
And uni. study in Humanities,
That, along with all the above, led to
(In the Old medium found best for me)
The penned Walkabouts, which may now be read -
Newly shown, I hope, where I’m coming from.

(C) David Franks 2003

Birthplace in Manchester; 29/5/17

Me with those "braced-trousers and
a shoulder bag"; taken around 1970

The duck pond at Fog Lane Park; 20/4/18

Sydney Airport beside Botany Bay; 26/11/15

Our "Yowie Bay detached-house"; in 1970s

Seymour Shaw Park - home of "the Miranda
Magpies, in the striped strip"; 16/11/2019

Once our junior tennis team's home-court -
Fenton Avenue, Caringbah, Sydney; 12/1/12

Boy scout blanket - lovingly sewn
by my mother in the in the 1970s

Gumtrees and bottlebrushes at
Katoomba; N.S.W.; 14/11/2019

Kangaroos at Symbio Wildlife Park; 23/11/17

Cockatoos and a kookaburra, 
at Audley, Sydney; spring 2013

Print on my wall of 1 of my father's paintings

Golf scorecard from my collection

My life's work - Walkabouts:
Travels and Conclusions in Verse