Saturday, December 29, 2007

Suddenly Uncle Laurie

We gave Bill a bag of bourbon-filled chocolates for Christmas. I tried one yesterday, and suddenly travelled through time back to my great uncle Laurie's groovy pad in Sydney, in the 1980s. I don't consciously remember there being a lot of liqueur choc around, but the synapses dialled it up immediately, so there must have been. And it would certainly be consistent with his world.

Laurie was Poppa's younger brother, a tailor, and a jazz musician. I wish I could say I heard him play, but I never did. Poppa himself was an extremely dapper looking jazzman in his younger days - we have an photo of him playing a tenor sax that could be an ad for Brylcreem. I have just called Sally to co-opt her memories of Laurie, and she has got the impression from Mum that while Poppa was away at the war, Laurie borrowed his saxophone and ended up being the family musician.

Uncle Laurie was a bachelor for much of his life, then suddenly there was an Auntie Faye. She was a glamorous Mae West-ish lounge singer, who is famous in our family for her appearances on the Mike Walsh show. Poppa and Grandma were living in a 5th floor unit by the harbour at this stage, in an affluent street of similar residential blocks. Their block was called Wolsely, and Faye and Laurie were just up the street in Edgewater. Their unit was very stylish. I remember an exercise bike and a special fridge full of small bottles of strangely unsweet fizzy drink, which we assumed were laid on for us kids. We were not familiar with the term "mixers". Sally remembers much more, including a room full of stuffed animals, a chihuahua named Xavier Cugat, and a marble and brass old-timey style telephone with a little music box beside it, upon which you were supposed to rest the phone to provide 'hold music' while you fetched someone. Xavier Cugat was a popular fixture at Laurie's tailoring shop. He once appeared in aWomens Weekly article about Sydney's little-known tourist attractions.

Laurie and Faye later built a house at Elenora Heights, looking over the northern beaches. This place was even more swanky, all done in a very pervasive black and red theme, with a lot of allusions to bullfighting and haughty señoritas. There was a massive black coffee table like a low dining table for six, supporting a black marble sculpted bull, a vividly glazed red ceramic ashtray the size and weight of an olympic discus, and a black tabletop lighter like a housebrick. He had a bar of course - every male relative in Sydney seemed to have a bar, apart from Poppa, who was a man of the straight and narrow road.

So Mike Walsh's people stopped calling at some stage, and Faye started singing on cruise ships. She had an affair with someone she met aboard, and left Laurie, who was terribly heartbroken. That ended badly for her, and she reappeared basically destitute, so Laurie gave her a job in the shop. When he died he left everything to Faye.

I wish I knew exactly what to bite into to call up all the rest of the dear departed relations from my youth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

With imagery like that you could get a gig writing Mike Leonard-Coen's biography