domingo, 10 de fevereiro de 2008

HUNKY-DORY

There I was sitting on a deckchair that late afternoon in January, sipping a delicious cool beer. As usual, the ceiling fan of our veranda was going at full speed, giving off a slight breeze, an illusion that outside it wasn’t as hot as it really was.
The veranda is closed in with fine netting to keep out flies and other insects common to the countryside from bothering us. I had no other alternative than to put in the netting so we could pass the hot afternoons and evenings there. For years it had been an open veranda, an area of our country place that was hardly ever used. One day I got the idea of the netting, and ever since it has been a central gathering place for all our friends.
On that particular afternoon, our front door neighbours wanted to know why our country home was called ‘Hunky-Dory’. I looked up at the main entrance, to the painted iron plaque and for a moment my memories took the best of me. That metal plate had followed me all my life, though it had been in the family even before I was born.
“My Dad,” I began—and had to stop as I became emotional—and then continued: “When Dad and Mum got married, they spent their honeymoon at the seaside.”
I kept looking at my friends. They knew as well as I did what we were in for. Once someone got hold of me I was supposed to be a good and interesting storyteller.
“Well, Dad and Mum stayed at a sort of bed and breakfast hotel belonging to a German lady. In those days, the 1930’s, the relationship between Germans and Englishmen (my parents) was quite cordial. During the days they were there, they became friendly. One day, the lady told Dad that she had just bought the house but almost didn’t, due to a metal plate on the wall beside the front door. She could not understand what was written on it and was unsure if it was meant as some kind of a joke or dirty words! Even so, the price asked for the house was such and she had the money inherited from her deceased husband to purchase the propriety. So she decided on the place, finding a temporary solution by covering the plaque with a piece of wooden boarding.”
My children were sitting around me drinking in every word. Quite obviously they had heard the story many times before. My wife and my friend’s wife stopped talking to hear it too.
“Overcome by curiosity, Dad asked permission to remove the board and have a peep at the metal plate.”
Pausing dramatically, I pointed to the plate over our main entrance, and said: “That plaque is now here.”
With no exception, everyone looked up at the metal plate. It seemed to shine from all the attention it was receiving.
“Yes, well,” I continued. “Dad understood the meaning immediately and offered to take it down. The German lady was beside herself in gratitude and he went back home with Hunky-Dory under his arm.”
It was in his possession for over thirty years. He promised himself to put it up on the first home he built. Unfortunately, not all dreams come true and he was never to have his own home, always living in rented houses. When he realised it would not be possible, he passed his dream and the rusted plate on to me. Ten years later I was able to build this lovely country home in this wonderful place.
“It was a tremedous shame that Dad was unable to see the first house built by one of his children and that it would be called ‘Hunky-Dory’. He did see some photographs though while it was being built, but he died, at the age of 85, a few months before completion.”
A respectful silence ensued. Everybody knew my feelings for my Dad, even so many years later and his frustation in not having come here.
My Brazilian friend asked me: “What does ‘Hunky-Dory’ mean?”, trying to pronounce the foreign words as correctly as possible.
To end the story, I told them all the meaning of the words on the metal plate that had been restaured before putting it up over the front door: ‘Everything is as it should be’. Summing up, Dad’s wish had come true and everything was in place.
Forgotten beside the deckchair, my beer had lost its freshness. I got up to get another one from the fridge. A tear rolled down my face. With my back to my friends and family, no one saw my renewed emotion that I always feel every time I remember this episode, so intimately related to my own existence.


This chronicle was written in 1994.
Nothing is ever certain in our short lifespan.
After twenty years, we sold our country home in 2000.
‘Hunky-Dory’ is now affixed to a column in our flat (see photo).

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