Peter Fitzsimons’ original claim to fame was as a Wallaby player that got sent off the field during a game against the All Blacks. He went on to sports journalism where he was known by some of the older generation, such as my father, as a “boofhead” and a “mug lair”. Personally, I had no opinion. Afterall, who cares about Rugby Union?
Still very much an Australian celebrity and much sort after as a Speaker on the After Dinner circuit, he is also married to a high profile television personality.
Puts you off a bit, doesn’t it?
However, Fitzsimons is also the author of numerous books, including sporting biographies and books about Australian icons such as Charles Kingsford-Smith. ( Any Aussie millenials will be saying “who”).
Fitzsimons was also Australia’s bestselling non fiction writer early in the decade with his military history books, Kokoda and Tobruk. Both these books brilliantly retold history in such a manner that even non traditional readers of war books, particularly women, rushed to learn more of both these frightening episodes affecting Australians during World War 2. Kokoda will forever remain a personal favourite detailing the Japanese invasion of Papua New Guinea, just north of our coastline, and the Australians’ efforts at turning the tide of that war. Not a book review, merely a friendly reminder that this is a tale of the Kokoda Track, not Trail as some on the other side of the world would have us believe. Repeat after me : Track. Track. Track.
The story of The Rats of Tobruk is also a great read, although somewhat dry. Not surprising given the geography I guess. ( That’s a joke. I’m not good at jokes)
My holiday reading this trip was A Simpler Time, A Memoir of Love, Laughter, Loss and Billycarts by Fitzsimons, published in 2010.
The blurb on the back cover says it all:
“Peter Fitzsimons’s account of growing up on the rural outskirts of Sydney in the 1960’s is first and foremost a tribute to family. But it is also a tribute to times and generations past, when praise was understated but love unstinting; work was hard and values clear; when people stood by each other in adversity.
Above all, in the Fitzsimons home, days were for doing. In this rollicking and often hilarious memoir, Peter describes a childhood of mischief, camaraderie, eccentric characters, drama- and constant love and generosity. The childhood of a simpler time.”
This book brought back so many of my own memories, of fathers who had survived a war rebuilding their lives by creating families on Blocks in the bush ( and yes, millennials, sixty years ago Lugarno in Sydney was bushland and not much more), of outdoor dunnies before sewerage was connected in the 70’s, and of long nights before television. More importantly, I too have fond memories of times spent with eccentric Aunts and Uncles ( thinking brothers Bill and Ray) and growing up in the shadows of cousins.
This is a delightful tale told with heart. As with all families there is bad with the good, as well as an aphorism to get you through, such as “ if it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger”. Did you get these as a kid too?
Well worth the read for nostalgia purposes as well as an epic Life Lesson : Just because a bloke insists on wearing a red bandanna, it doesn’t make him a boofhead!