One of the lads I went to school with died about a year ago…of a heart attack, I am told. His name was Maris Zalups…Of course, we kids lazily condensed his Latvian surname to more suit our casualness and his happy easy-going nature to “Slopsy”….His brother’s name was Arrtis (sp?)…..too hard!…he got called : “Harry” (He too passed away just recently)….Harry grew from a gangling boy to a full-blown archetype “Viking Warrior” in both phiz and psyche!.. a body like “Conan the Warrior” and a voice like Barry White….he was much in demand by the “gentler sex”….we scowled in the corner of the local front-bar…but we scowled quietly!
Their parents were escapees from a turmoiled Europe after the second world war…the father was a very good musician…before a very bad motorcycle and side-car accident….I remember him tirelessly trying to teach Harry the piano, and he succeeded..even against Harry’s wishes (too much sun..too much surf in Australia!)…there was a small bust of Ludwig van ‘ on the upright piano and Harry would everyday be there rolling out some turgid piece, with his father smoking a dour pipe whilst sitting in a teacher’s contemplate at the end of the keyboard. I remember once the father went out of the room to fill his pipe as Harry played…he had no sooner gone than the rebellious spirit grabbed the youth’s hands and a playful Jerry-Lee Lewis piece sprung from the keyboard….parents came running and Harry immediately fell back into the rhythm of the classical piece as if nothing had happened!
Maris was a lost cause as far as artistic instruction went and his father left him alone and he, with all us adventurous kids would immediately make for the gully to swing from the trees like Tarzan, or wooden sticks in hands, make for the seaside sand-dunes ala Beau Geste!…we could always see Harry, finally released from Tchaikovsky, running toward us in frenetic glee!
Their mother was an artist..with oils…she could often be seen UNDISTURBED! in a small side room off the shed painting away. I remember once..I must have been about nine or ten..chasing Harry through the house and we were pulled up in the lounge room where Mrs. Zalups had a lot of her framed paintings propped on the chairs there…She held us up ..”Boys, boys…stop!..I would like you to meet Mr….” of course, young boys are even less inclined to remember names than manners and we said hello to the grey-suited stranger standing there hat in hand and stolid standing…and then ran on. It was only many years later, whilst walking down Rundle Mall, past a Myers window display of a full-size photo cut-out of a man in a grey suit with several framed paintings of his on display that I recognised him as that same gentleman in Mrs. Zalup’s lounge-room ..and her introductory words came straight back to me..”Boys, boys..stop!..I would like you to meet Mr. Hans Heysen”.
This is an important story…look at the players..Myself ;Italian / Irish..them Latvian..others in our group incl’ English, Dutch , German..and well..you know it…..AND…let us embrace the reality..: All Australian!
This..is the Australia I vote for, not a mean-spirited polarising of one ethnic group against the other…for there is no one ethnic majority that can work this huge nation on it’s own…there never has been….This is the Labor objective I support..it’s motto, no less intense than us kids on a limb of a huge pine tree about to group-swing way out over the gully depths, all clasping onto the one many-knotted rope..: “One in -All in!”…..GO!… this is the spirit of the people who still stand united together around the “light on the hill”.