A few years back the High School I attended celebrated its 50th year with an array of celebrations, including a series of Class Reunions. Although I was unable to attend any of the events the festivities provided the opportunity to reminisce with many neighbours, friends and acquaintances from all those years ago via social media. The beauty of the internet is that I have since enjoyed catching up over a meal with people with whom I shared my ratty teenage years, as well as a play mate from the sand pit in kindy.
With all the nostalgia someone recommended a book called “Goodnight, Crackernight” by young Australian Author, Justin Sheedy. This book was always going to resonate with me as Cracker Night, in Sydney, was originally celebrated on Empire Day, May 24th, the day after my birth date. I grew up believing, with assistance from my parents, that the fireworks were in honour of my birthday.
Yes, I also believed in fairies at the bottom of the garden, leprechauns, and Unicorns. Didn’t you?
The blurb on the back of the book sums it up :
“Crackernight! One night a year, the infinite normality of the suburbs is shot with utter magic. Goodbye, Crackernight is the story of one boy’s childhood in 1970s Australia. It is a story of fireworks, of fun that cost nothing, of second-hand bikes, UFO-crowded skies, streakers, lime green Valiants, half-sucked Sunny Boys and electric pink hotpants. It is a story of growing up and innocence left behind – at a three-day swimming pool party. It is the tale of an era, of far simpler times, of an annual neighbourhood festival and an Australia long since gone”.
“Goodbye Crackernight”: A portrait of growing up when a child’s proudest possession was not a Playstation but a second-hand bike.”
So, I became a fan of young Justin Sheedy, who just happened to be a military aviation tragic, and who had written two books of a Second World War trilogy, and was busy working on the final instalment.
My old Da had served in Bomber Command during WW2, but did not talk about his exploits. A house full of women, and the stiff upper lip attitude as was expected, you see.
So I naturally gravitated towards Sheedy’s fictional military history books. Firstly, because I had a need to learn more about how and why young Australians were excited to head to the other side of the world to fight the Nazis in the sky, and also because Sheedy spins a darn good yarn.
Sheedy’s books have taken me on a journey that was never anticipated. After using his fictional characters in historically correct situations I have learnt so much about the Empire Air Training Scheme, London’s Kangaroo Club, the amazing Guinea Pig Club, the female pilots who ferried aircraft, and most recently, Malta’s role during the hostilities. WOW – all great stuff. This interest has led to the hunting down of further reading material on these subjects which is another task which gives me a total buzz. I guess, in a small way, it gave me insight into my Da as a young man, before he had the quarter acre block, the mortgage and me.
So now that I have settled on my new Christmas lunch recipes – Smashed Brussel Sprouts and a Cous Cous and Roast Pumpkin and Feta Salad – I am looking forward to the coming recluse time, when the blinds are pulled down, the music plays quietly, and recovery from another frantic year can commence.
Number one priority is to complete this Airfix Kit. It’s a Halifax from WW2. Bizarrely, the nose art on this Kit plane is exactly the same as the nose art on my Da’s plane.
A sponsored ad for Airfix Kits just popped up on social media just over twelve months ago when I was sitting up reading late one night. Let’s just say apoplexy set in.
Where things can take you, hey….
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