When I tap on Old Ma Google’s back door there he is: an indigenous Australian warrior of the ring hoisting a keg of beer above his head, and again, a newsreel of him marrying in London back in grainy photographic days. My father, who disliked me, boxed overseas during his army service years before whisking us 10,000 miles to Australia. He told me, just once, George Cook, a New South Wales boxer who, I now read, although a smallish heavyweight, blitzed it with the best around the world, caught the trolleybus my father drove, home to Surbiton after training, London bouts, toting a sports bag. A young boy, I became hooked on boxing.
Returning to England, I skipped Buckingham Palace, did roadwork in my father’s haunts, past privet, through fog, more privet, to excavate where our clan hollered, discover why, jigsaw puzzling his bruising biography, cause and effect circling anger. When I took a blow to the heart I got in close, hung on. Feinting towards close kin’s secrets highlights chapters of your own struggle, glancing memories, like seeing faded tattoos, leaving you weakened. Mother said I am stubborn, like him.
His name also George, electric connection crackling and sputtering above him on rainswept night shifts, he knew Cook was Australian. Perhaps he nurtured an inkling of our gruelling antipodean future. Cook died in Surbiton far from the eucalyptus scent of an ancestral campfire, aged only forty-five, while my father ended his Australian days, still stubborn, at eighty-three. Oh, if only I could Google post-bout boxing banter between Cook – that sports bag between his feet – my father, and his conductor. Expatriate live intrigue. Back stories. Damaging rips to the solar plexus. Fathers. Camaraderie. Streetlight under rain, the promise of a coal fire.
Ian C Smith’s work has been published in Antipodes, BBC Radio 4 Sounds,The Dalhousie Review, Griffith Review, San Pedro River Review , Southword, The Stony Thursday Book, & Two Thirds North. His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide). He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island.