Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

42+


Whatever it was - it was bloody interesting (Vietnam Veterans' Museum - Phillip Island)

It's been a memorable week. I've spent six days with six blokes I served with at a battalion reunion. We were all, at some time during 1970, members of B Company, 7RAR. Three of the crew I hadn't seen since that time.

This is the first reunion I've attended. It won't be the last. I now regret not being at the others. We hired a condominium in the heart of Melbourne. The fact that there was only one shower and toilet for seven old geezers didn't bother us. This accommodation was a vast improvement on the clammy Vietnamese soil replete with scorpions and snakes that we slept on for months at a time many years ago.

We come from all over the country and are a mixed and varied lot - all successful in our own right - a real estate salesman, an accountant, a bloke who runs a bread and breakfast, a printer, a manager, a warrant officer and a school principal. Four decades of life experiences have intervened, and we were (and are) very different people, but we clicked as if the forty year gap didn't exist.

Back then, the distinction between Nashos and Regs was irrelevant. Nothing has changed. I'd have to think hard now to remember which was which. Race, politics and religion are also irrelevant. Political disagreements pale into insignificance against a background of shared risk and discomfort in a war zone.

Most are married, but not all marriages have endured. Vietnam Veterans are generally high maintenance partners. Those of us who remain married are grateful to our wives. Perhaps there should be a special medal struck for them. We're all at the stage of life when we’re either retired or about to be, and finding ourselves with time to think and look at our lives post-Vietnam.

Bonds like these forged in shared hardship and duress are solid and endure the march of time.

This unique connection gave us permission to endlessly pay out on each other, to behave much as we did when we were twenty (as against sixty), and to fall back into the old roles we adopted way back when. We're still twenty year-olds at heart. Men take a long time to grow up. I'll let you know when I have.

The way we talk to each other - the discourse of old soldiers - is unique. There are the one-liners, most of which I can't repeat here. Some examples will suffice -

"I've appointed you as my sexual adviser, so if I want f**king advice from you, I'll ask for it".

"Have you been told today? No? Well I'll be the first. Get f**ked."

"Anyone who can't tap dance is a poofter" (always said whilst furiously tap dancing").

And the verse - "Up the red rooster!" With the chorus - “More piss!"

Written here, this banter looks bizarre and juvenile. In context, with this group, especially after a drink or three - it's absolutely hilarious.

Together again, we reformed as a team. Together again, it was us against the world. The fact that the world we were in (metropolitan Melbourne) wasn't necessarily hostile was neither here nor there.

This morning in Melbourne there are a few bewildered taxi drivers who wonder what hit them. It's not an unreasonable expectation that a Melbourne taxi driver knows the location of Crown Casino, and said driver shouldn't have been too surprised when the language became colourful after he asked us for directions.

The older we get, the better we used to be, and our stories consistently improve with the telling. Every now and again would come a revelation, an understanding, that had been dormant for 40 years.

Those who didn't survive were honoured, formally with both respect and sorrow at the cenotaph, and informally, with humour, around a few beers.

Above all, it is perhaps this - our capacity to laugh at ourselves and at each other - that is at the core of our friendship.

Long may it continue.....

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post. You are human after all and have learned in a few days what two years produced in people of varied lifestyles thrown together in adverse conditions. Well done Bob.

1735099 said...

"in a few days"
You've got to be kidding. I learnt this 42 years ago.

cav said...

"Paying out" is intergenerational. I made the mistake of taking my son Chris (who recently returned from Afghanistan) to the gym with me where a number of veterans frequent.

Boy was I on the receiving end! These guys, just like your fat and ugly mates, told my son a lot of stories about me and the sad fact was some of them were true!

We are in a unique club 1735099 where 'paying out' is a competition of one upmanship.

1735099 said...

"fat and ugly mates"
Absolutely.
Of course, I'm the only one not fat and ugly.

Anonymous said...

"Of course, I'm the only one not fat and ugly."

You must be holding the camera then.

Anonymous said...

My name is Kate (Kathy) my best friends brother was Bernie Cox!
He was this "older brother" who was always so nice to me when I would be at his house for the week end with my friend Maureen! We were 16, Bernie was 19!
Then it all changed! We all grew up very quickly, It was never quote the same when Bernie left to ho to Vietnam!

I loved receiving his letters, but I used to worry that we were having a nice time, and he was not at home.

It has been many years since I have seen him, and thrilled that I have tracked h down. Cannot wait to see him and hear about the past 40 odd years.

Big hug to all of you and your wife's. Wonderful to have your reunions they are very important! Keep them up.
PS. Listening to The Doors, Bob Dylon, Carol King!

I am now 58, but feel like a 16 yr old again going over to Mt and Mrs Coxs house for the week end again! X

Blog Archive