“Come on in, sit down,” my father smiles, as he turns his chair to face me. Sunlight streams in through the study window, causing his shiny, egg-like head to glow. I sit in the warm sunshine, watching dust motes dance as I listen to Dad’s fascinating stories of travelling the world.
Earnest, impassioned, even fanatical, Dad fully commits himself to everything he is involved in, from cheering on my brother’s rugby games to preaching every Sunday. With a maniacally enthusiastic gleam lighting his green eyes, he regales me with stories of his wild travels. Born in Glasgow, my father was no stranger to change, having left Scotland with his parents at the age of ten to sail to New Zealand. “I often say that it was the best five weeks of my life,” he says, emphatically waving his hands about. With childlike glee, Dad tells me how he “never missed a breakfast” on the Canberra, even passing through a monsoon in the Indian Ocean with “80-foot waves!” Leaning over the side of the liner as it sailed up the Suez Canal, Dad watched the graceful sway of native women as they walked, effortlessly balancing large jars on their heads. With the heavy cinnamon heat rolling over him, my father felt a great spark of wanderlust within his breast.
Dad’s greatest travels occurred at the age of twenty nine; prompted by a desire to drink a pint of beer in every European country, he embarked on an adventure around Europe, armed with a hardy rucksack, a Euro-Rail pass and an ever-dwindling supply of cash. Wearing a thin pair of slippers, my father navigated the streets of Rome for hours, only to be turned away from the Vatican City because he was wearing shorts. Frustrated and soul-weary, Dad arrived extremely early the next morning, enjoying the exquisite beauty of Michelangelo’s Pieta in relative solitude.
Interviewing Dad, I am again reminded of his stubbornness, a trait I encountered numerous times over breakfast wars and literary debates, but particularly in this tale of a bottle of wine. After touring a Bordeaux vineyard, Dad bought a vintage bottle of Chateau de Champion 1975. The bottle was placed in his rucksack, where it spent the next few weeks being carted all around Europe while Dad searched for the perfect place to drink it, finally settling upon the Jardin Des Tuileries in Paris. En route however, a rather unfortunate accident occurred in Koblenz, Germany. Under the “lashing” rain, my father was crossing a railway line, when to his absolute horror, his rucksack split open. Sodden medication and dirty clothes were the least of his worries; his precious bottle of wine was smashed, its vintage sweetness soaking his bedding.
Although never having traveled overseas myself, my father’s sheer enjoyment when reminiscing about his travels has made me want to explore the world in its entirety, from the dusty pyramids of Egypt to the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. I thank him for his time, but lost in his memories, he does not hear me.