Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
I guess it’s a good thing I inherited the punctuality gene from my father, because my mother, a perennially delightful influence on my life, simply could not have been on time for anything, even if her life depended on it.
Part of family folklore is the story of the day the Queen came to town. Yes, that Queen.
At the time, my family lived in Calcutta and Dad scored two premier tickets to one of the big events of the royal tour. The Queen and Prince Phillip would be attending a special service at St Paul’s Cathedral - and Mum and Dad were high on the list of invitation-only VIPs.
Looking back on it now, I guess Dad must have been sweating bullets. How on earth was he going to shoehorn Mum into the car to be at the Cathedral with time to spare?
I wish they were both alive now, so that I could ask each of them for their own version of how the miracle came to pass. Dad’s version would have been dry-witted, succinct and to the point. Mum would have contradicted his yarn at every point and would have given a completely different viewpoint.
Turns out Dad not only got Mum into the car on time, he somehow managed to do so with more than an hour to spare. But Dad was a canny bloke, so I reckon he must have (deliberately) given Mum the wrong start time for the church service, or he simply re-set every clock in the house.
But there was my mother, resplendent in her hat and formal dress and her pearls. On time.
Before he started the car, Dad asked Mum if she had the tickets to the service. Mum nodded. Dad asked if she was sure. Mum said yes. Dad suggested it might be prudent to check her handbag. Mum suggested it might be prudent if Dad made no further suggestions.
So Dad, who oversaw the entry and exit of several million dollars’ worth of shipping every day in the port of Calcutta, saw the good sense in keeping silent.
They arrived at the cathedral, parked the car and walked towards the giant, shady portico at the west entrance. Naturally, they were asked for their tickets. Dad turned to Mum, who had them in her handbag.
Mum opened her handbag and looked. And looked some more. And some more. And then, short of turning her bag upside down, had to admit that she had no idea where they were.
At this point, Dad decided the best course of action would be to return home (no short distance, mind you) and search the entire house for the tickets. I cannot imagine that the spirit of conversation in the car would have been too lively or overly Christian-like, but Dad got home, found the tickets and this time insisted on putting them into the pocket of his coat.
They got back to the cathedral, triumphantly showed their tickets to the ushers and finally took their place in the congregation.
Remember I told you my Dad was canny? I wasn’t kidding. He had made two round trips, not one - and he still escorted Mum into the cathedral with about half an hour to spare.
Mrs Nesbitt hosts ABC Wednesday.