Monday, June 20, 2011

The Magic Faraway Tree and the Vegetable Song

beetroot to yourself
lettuce get along
Bean so good getting to know you
Peas to you and all of your family - Tim Juliff (1950 - 2011)

So that's it then? His father has gone and there's nobody ahead of him. Nobody higher than him on the tree. - Caryl Phillips, "In the Falling Snow"

Memories of Dandenong Road, East St Kilda (OZ)
It doesn't take much. This time it came upon me completely unexpectedly. The all-consuming sorrow.

I was walking to the local park; taking photos for my blog. I crossed York Avenue. Jay-walking New York-style. And there it was. Right in front of me on the sidewalk. I almost bumped in to it. A tree with a big hollow in it. I was reminded.

My mind went back a hundred years. Dandenong Road, Australia - on our way to Windsor State School. I was nine. My brother Tim, five. Latch-key kids. There was a tree somewhere along Dandenong Road. I remember it was a plane tree. The things we remember ... The tree it intrigued us. We'd stop by it every day. We believed that there were elves and goblins in the hollow. Children of the Enid Blyton generation, we imagined we'd found "The Magic Faraway Tree" of Blyton's story for children.

Tim's gone now. The last time I spoke to him was shortly after Japan's big tsumami and I guess that's why Kyu Sakamoto's "Sukiyaki" song is indelibly linked in my mind to my brother's death.

When our mother died Tim told me that we were now orphans. I hadn't thought about our new status. And now it's even worse. I'm at the top of the tree, as the novelist Caryl Phillips puts it. And there's no Saucepan Man, Dame Washalot, Angry Pixie, or any of Blyton's characters up here. I'm all alone ...

Too many reminders. I'd just about gotten over the hollow tree association when I read a Facebook friend's status for today. "It was exactly three months ago that the tsunami hit the north-eastern coast of Japan," she wrote. So many months away. It was just one week after that tsunami that I spoke to my brother for the last time. We discussed the problems with the nuclear reactors in Japan. I'll call you again in a few days, I told him. Within two days the cancer had taken his hearing. We never spoke again.

And then - today is the shortest day of the year in Australia. The anniversary of something I cannot discuss here, but the anniversary is now painful, though what it celebrates was, at the time, joyous. Every 21st of June I take stock. And now in 2011 the stock is added to.

The sentiments expressed in my brother's "Vegetable Song" are admirable, and if we could all follow them, our lives would be richer.

Richer, yes.

But longer?

Obviously not.

Tim was just 61 when he left us.

I wish all of my friends "peas". And peas to their families too.

Remember to eat your veggies! ASIF Tim did! I remember when he was very little. He used to hide his beans under the table-cloth at dinner time. One day my mother caught him in the act. "Do NOT put your beans under the table-cloth!" she admonished. Straight away Tim pulled them out from under the table-cloth and put them on his head.

Peas, brother.


Anonymous said...


Vanessa said...

I wish I had had the chance to meet your brother. From everything you said he seems so adorable.

The stories you tell of him in this blog are so endearing it's almost as if I had met him.

I hope you will find comfort in your memories of him, they are memories to be treasured.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Kate very nice. I feel what you feel all be it from a diffrent time zone and place. much love.
a fellow Juliff.

Anonymous said...

Felix that

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