The One About Poppy John and the Dog and Bone
When phoning home would frustrate ET.
I was reminded at netball on Saturday, that this column is well overdue. I know people, but sooooo much has been happening, I am up to pussy’s bow and often need a quick nanna nap at my desk to keep up.
Anyhoos here you go, just a little something at my parents’ expense to keep you going.
It’s Poppy John’s birthday this weekend.
My loveable Dad is seeing in another year happily swathed in his slippers and trackies, still living the dream with Mother Mary and surrounded by family.
Poppy John (as affectionately named by Joan Rivers and The QE2) is the poster child for a man punching above his weight and has ended up living a life that has far exceeded his expectations (but not without its struggles as life hands out). As most of his ex-army and Federal Police colleagues have pointed out over the years, ‘Thatch, you are a lucky bastard.’
I would make a case, that after defending his country in Vietnam and then coming home to forge a career in fighting organised crime and drug trafficking, he is probably entitled to live a life of general peace and contentment pottering about switching off lights and powerpoints with wanton abandon to save on the power bills, even if it does come at the cost of Mother Mary’s sanity.
It is a quite a thing to see your parents get older. Especially when they were very young when they had you. Dad was 25 and Mum was 20 years old when they started procreating!
Stink and I (Stink being my joyfully flatulent younger brother by two and a half years), were the beneficiaries of their youthful parenting style. Such vim and vigour would see us all body surfing, snow skiing, abseiling down cliffs and caving (thanks to the AFP funded excursions of the Search and Rescue Squad…..ah the 70s), hiking, camping (the camping story is yet to come) and general partying type behaviour. They took us everywhere with them and when Stink and I got tired there was always a bed piled high with vinyl jackets and polyester to fall asleep on.
They had so much energy (geez, sounds like I have them half dead) and if you asked them, they wouldn’t change any of it, except…..
As is the case with couples that have been married for 50 years, everyone has their lane, and peace and harmony ensues when people stick in their lane. Mother Mary has about 10 lanes. She is a juggernaut, or as Poppy John often calls her, ‘A complete gem.’ Very cute indeed.
Ringing ‘the house’ is now a comedic array of Monty Python skits that Stink and I will replay and collapse into tears about, over a wine or five when we see each other. Poppy John’s use of the phone is slowing driving Mother Mary up the sodding wall.
Scenario 1: The No Conversation, Conversation
Brrring, Brrring! (Just think of a phone ringing in an episode of The Young Doctors).
Poppy John (seeing my name on caller ID): ‘Hello darling, hang on here’s your mother.’
Moi: ‘Good chat Dad.’
Seriously, why pick up the bloody phone?
Scenario 2: The Three-way Conversation
Brrring, Brrring! (Why confuse you with multiple sound effects).
Moi (seeing ‘Mum & Dad’ on caller ID): ‘Hey.’
Poppy John: ‘Hello Darling it’s Dad. Umm, now Mum wanted me to ask you what time you want us for dinner on Thursday?’
Moi: ‘Sure, but I told mum already Dad, about 5pm.’
Poppy John: ‘Yes but I was wondering if we could come at 3pm to avoid peak-hour traffic?’
Mother Mary (in the background): ‘John, how many times have I told you, Jaq and I have it organised, she is busy and doesn’t need us there any earlier.’
Poppy John (now having a conversation with Mother Mary while I hang on the line): ‘I know darling but getting across town at that time, the traffic will be a nightmare.’
Mother Mary (still in the background): ‘John, Jaq is working and doesn’t need us getting in the way.’
Moi: ‘Hello, I am still here!’
This bullshit can go on for a solid five minutes longer until Mother Mary rips the phone out of his hand and reconfirms that they will be promptly at my house for happy hour at 5pm.
Scenario 3: The Black Ops Conversation
To confuse matters more and extend this communications shit show even further, is the fact that Mother Mary has a second mobile phone. It is only turned on and used on the rare occasion that Mother Mary and Poppy John aren’t together, and Mother Mary has managed a few sacred hours on her own at Chadstone.
I call it the ‘Burner Phone’ and when it rings it is always Mother Mary having flown the coup wanting to know if you need a palette of toilet paper from Costco.
However, Poppy John will occasionally call from the Burner Phone.
We have learnt that when this happens, abort the conversation immediately and disavow any knowledge as it is an unsanctioned phone call.
It usually involves Poppy John with the Burner Phone hiding somewhere and speaking in hushed tones so not to alert Mother Mary to the ‘off the books’ conversation. He will ask for the fiftieth time when the kids are on school holidays in 2021 so he can get the best flights to the Gold Coast, if Stink can come over and build him a shed or see if you can pop into ‘Dan’s’ when you come for a roast and grab a slab of ‘Crownies’ on the way. All these things Mother Mary sees as unnecessary impositions or pointless questions for ‘the kids’ (that’s me and Stink).
Moi (seeing it’s the Burner Phone): ‘Hey Mum, what’s on sale?’
Poppy John (whispering): ‘Hello Darling it’s Dad.’
Moi (nervous): ‘What are you up to, and where in the house are you hiding?’
Poppy John: ‘No everything is fine. Just a quick question. Do you think you could bring a bottle of red with you on Sunday night?’
Moi: ‘You aren’t supposed to drink red anymore Dad.’
Poppy John: ‘No, I can have the odd glass here and there.’
Mother Mary (finding Poppy John crouched in the corner of the garage): ‘John, for the love of Christ, what ARE you doing?’
Poppy John (alarmed and surprised again that mum has sprung him): ‘What? Nothing. I didn’t.’
At this point the line goes dead.
To be fair to Mother Mary, she is not a control freak dragon wife, in fact the complete opposite, (she told me to write that) she is merely trying to assist in the smooth transition of communication between the households and minimise the chances of cock-ups and time-wasting.
I of course, find no end of amusement in it all, happy in the knowledge that this sort of mindless crap can be turned into a column at some point, helping others to realise that their parents aren’t the only ones who are completely bonkers. I call it community service.
Meanwhile the best Dad ever, will have as usual, a lovely birthday dinner (apparently there’s gluten-free Crepe Suzette for dessert), while copping a good-natured spray from everyone over a few sneaky glasses of some’in some’in….and loving it.
Happy birthday Dad!
Love Jaq xxx
Postscript: Upon alerting Mother Mary of my intention to write this article, as a point of courtesy, she informed Poppy John.
Mother Mary: ‘John, Jaq is writing an article about you and phones.’
Poppy John: ‘What! Naples? Why would she write an article about me and Naples, I haven’t been to Naples in years?’
Mother Mary: ‘Oh for fuck’s sake John.’