The Godfather: Peter Corris on things lost but not forgotten
Have you ever lost something you valued? Just found it gone, vanished like that single sock lost in the wash? In a longish life I can think of a few instances, some of which still tease me.
One of my much-admired uncles – to my shame I can’t remember whether was Uncle Bob Kennedy or Uncle Jim Kennedy, both of whom had served in the Middle East in World War II – gave me an Arab headband when he returned home. It was an arrangement, hand-made I suspect, that fitted over the head to keep the headcloth in place. It was green and silver, beautifully made, with silk thread covering the light struts. I used to put a handkerchief over my head and put the device in place, playing TE Lawrence before I had ever heard of him. Somehow, in those careless young years, I lost it, I know not how or when.
I lost the wedding ring from my first marriage in the surf at Wanderer Bay on the coast of Guadalcanal in what was known in those colonial days as the BSIP, the British Solomon Islands Protectorate. In 1968 I was there, living in a hut in a coastal village and interviewing people who had travelled to Queensland and Fiji as indentured labourers in the late years of the 19th century and early in the 20th – doing fieldwork for my doctorate. Living on fish and rice and tramping tropical miles, I lost weight and the ring must have become loose. I swam every day, to the amusement of the locals who swam only when they had to, and realised after a swim that the ring had gone. Perhaps it was a portent. The marriage was troubled and ended soon after I returned to Australia.
At some point, I’ve long forgotten how, where or when, I acquired a set of cut-throat razors old enough to be considered antiques. Did I inherit or buy them, or were they a gift? I don’t know. They were beautiful instruments. The sharp blades folded into housings covered with soft cloth. I never used them, terrified of what a slip of the hand could do, but enjoyed their possession and I regret their loss. They vanished. I strongly suspect they were stolen and I think I know the culprit but I had no proof. No names, no pack-drill.
I have three degrees – a BA from Melbourne, an MA from Monash and a PhD from the ANU. At one time I had all three certificates in a cardboard tube provided for that purpose. They were a little time-worn and one had been nibbled by mice. They sat in the container undisturbed for decades but I had a certain amount of pride in them. When we made our most recent house move I was unable to find them and, when I thought about it, I realised I hadn’t sighted them in the previous house for years. Lost in transit.
I still own a few such items now – a couple of golf trophies, a medal for surviving 50 years with Type 1 diabetes, a few book awards, a pebble picked up on the beach of the Isle of Capri. I think it unlikely I’ll move house again so they’re probably safe, failing flood or fire.