Saturday, April 25, 2009
COFFEE AND RUM
An early memory I have is of attending Anzac Day Dawn Parade at the Cenotaph in Wellington. In those days (1960's) there weren't as many attendees as nowadays and I was always able to get a good view of the proceedings. I felt very special and proud of my Dad who had service medals (stars) for Crete, Africa, Italy and other Dominion medals for the 1939-1945 war. Dad was not one of those ex-servicemen who frequented the RSA and who talked a lot about the war. He attended the Dawn Parade each year to remember the friends he lost during some of the bloodiest campaigns of WW2. As a child it was a big adventure being woken in the dark and sleepily dressing (warmly) to be driven down deserted streets to the assembly point. Familiar landmarks assumed an ethereal atmosphere in the dark, cold and mist. I remember shuffling feet, muffled coughs, the spark of a match and the smell of cigarette smoke. Always, the firing of the gun (howitzer which made an almighty sound so close to the crowd) would make me jump even though I was expecting and looking forward to it going off. They don't do that now, another casualty of the modern age whereby firing it at 6AM would affect the sensibilities of the inner city dwellers. Shame. After the parade the attendees would gather in the foyer of Wellington Railway Station, a short walk away to get warm, chat and to drink the coffee provided free. This came out of huge urns and was poured into those chunky, rounded NZR cups. It was warming and had a delicious illicitness about it due to it being liberally laced with rum. One of these with an Anzac biscuit then home to bed for a couple of hours sleep.
I attended the Auckland Dawn Parade at the Auckland Museum as usual this morning. I think of my Dad a lot but especially so on these mornings. The feeling that he is beside me is palpable. I carry his medals in my pocket. There is no howitzer salute nor coffee laced with rum being served afterwards but I still feel a connection with those Wellington days and am so pleased that the Dawn Parade is being strongly supported with the younger generations assembling, taking their children who will hopefully have good memories of the experience.
When I got home I brewed up a cafetiere of coffee and had a cup liberally laced with rum (Appleton's 12 Y.O.). To you Dad.