Tally Ho


We are on our way to the airport discussing the derivation of the word tally ho. We all thought it meant a flourishing, extravagant Goodbye, said with an English accent and a grandiose waving of the hand. Graham is reading from the iPhone – to teach us that it is what is shouted when a fox is spotted on the hunt. It is also an expression that was used during the Second World War when enemy aircraft were sighted by fighter pilots. These days it might be used by pilots as a response to air traffic controllers letting them know about air traffic in their vicinity.

I am delivering my men to the airport to set them on their journey to New Caledonia. There, they will sail with two others; another man and his son. I do not know what it will be like. I have hopes for fine weather and smooth seas. I am already wondering if Jasper has enough socks and whether his father packed any singlets.

I took no part in the packing. I didn’t want to be the one to forget something. Hence I am sure they have left something behind.

But they are not travelling to the end of the world.

Socks, I am guessing, can be bought world-wide.

The drive to the airport via Leach Highway is mind-numbingly depressing. It is about the worst possible view of suburbia. Full of semi-industrial warehouses and garage-like shops. Full of mechanics for high performance vehicles and fork-lift operators. Sidewalks unused, the slabs lifting. Delis selling Chico rolls. Past broken down houses with washing lines strung with FIFO fluorescent work shirts. It was out here somewhere that Dad spent a week in a transitional facility on his way to the nursing home. It held the demented and therefore had a series of high security hoops one needed to jump through to get in there, and to get out again. It had that Cuckoo’s Nest feel about it and the smell of boiled broccoli. Dad hated it and was perpetually packing and trying to figure out how to order a taxi to take him home.

At the bag drop a couple have opened a bulging pink suitcase to take out stuff from it and jam it into another. To close it again the boyfriend must kneel on the lid while the girl fiddles with the zipper. At every counter someone is trying to waggle their bags through despite their extra kilos. But this is a budget airline and if your bags are over-weight they will make you pay.

I say good bye here, before the security, because otherwise I will need a pat down. The boy, who never hugs, seems sad to be leaving me. He puts his arms about me, more than is usual for him. He even lets me plant a kiss on his neck, which is now where my lips come up to. I watch him as he makes the metal detector ping. Back through and take your belt off young man. He wears his Lamonts yellow beanie, rescued from the recycling bin, before it went out on the verge. Lucky. It is the vision I will carry of him through the next two weeks. Smiling back at me. Bye Mum.

I am on my own.

I have no partner, no son;  no one to cook for, to pick up from school, to wash and to clean for. I have no schedule to keep other than my own. I can keep writing all through dinner time. I have no mother, no father. No mother to care for. No mother to visit, to sit with, to look through gossip mags.

Before she died, my mother had been frightened of the idea of Graham and Jasper going off sailing. I don’t like to think of them out on the ocean, she would say. She didn’t like risk. I can’t bare to think of an ocean with waves and swell and them upon it. If she was still alive I would visit her now to tell her they got off okay and then again tell her each and every day that they were still okay. Whether I knew it or not. She would ring me for news. I would ring her back. But the phone will not ring, and if it does, I will not need to answer it.

I have a dog whose nails are clicking on the floorboards as he senses it is about school pick-up time. He is ready to go get Jasper from the Arts Centre. It is his routine and he knows it in his cells. He comes into the study and looks at me. He wags his tail, brown eyes saying let’s go already. He stands by the desk and shakes his body. He stretches. But I do not have to go. I can keep writing despite the dog’s misgivings. I do not have to get up in the morning. I could, if I wanted, spend all day in bed. I could start drinking after lunch. Murphy, baffled by my not leaving my desk, wanders back out. Back in. Back out.

Graham has left the dying roses on the table, with an instruction not to move them. They are from my mother’s funeral. Later they may become a picture. One day it may hang in a gallery or on someone’s wall. For now they are dropping their leaves, slowly one by one, and their pink rose petals turning brown. I wanted to ditch them when he left but he has said to leave them, if I could bare it, for another two weeks, till he returns. What state will the water be in then? Already it is swamp. I wanted to get rid of them to spartan the table and perhaps make space for felt-making. But I will leave the roses till he gets home…




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