This is not the end of the history of the Foxon Family. Hopefully it is only the beginning of our story in Australia. The rest lies in the future, and is unknowable to me. All I can do is to wish those future generations good luck.
I am pleased about one important thing. Although our ancestors, through no fault of their own, knew hard times, we have escaped. We have escaped from the back-breaking toil, the telltale blue scars, the lifelong slavery of Yorkshire company coal mines. We have escaped from the squalor of the East End of London and from the contemptible isolation of the European ghetto. We have escaped from the physical poverty engendered by lack of money. And we have escaped from the spiritual poverty of ignorance. In Australia, the slate has been wiped clean. What we now write on that slate is up to us. If we go back to poverty or regress to ignorance, the fault is our own.
The next generation, provided we can be blessed with peace, has the opportunity of a better life than any before it. What they make of that opportunity lies within their hands.
Progress depends partly on ability, partly on work, and partly on luck. But luck, after all, is when opportunity meets preparation and preparation involves perseverance. So above all, one’s success depends on perseverance and preparation.
The world becomes ever more crowded and complex. How can one make sense of the pullulating human ant-heap?
Once I had a goldfish pond in the front garden. The algae, nourished by sunlight, provided ample food, and the happy fishy residents bred up from half a dozen to over a hundred. It was interesting to see how the awkward, exotic fantails decreased in number and reverted to more basic forms – survival of the fittest! There must be a lesson in that!
One day, fifty yards down the road, a Council workman sprayed some weeds with poison. A zephyr of wind deposited a few droplets of hormone spray in the pond. Over a period of a week the fish slowly succumbed and floated white and lifeless to the surface.
So it is with humankind. A nuclear holocaust, a melting of the ice caps, a tilting of the earth’s axis, a collision with a lump of matter from outer space, the explosion, or the collapse of the sun ………..One day our planet Earth will become the communal “Vernichtungslager” of us all, and it won’t matter a rap whether we are Christian, Jew or Muslim, white, black or brindle, fish, fowl or reptile. As more of us realise this, the Theatre of the Absurd gains added significance. But it does not supply any of the answers.
Actually, nothing has changed. All men are cousins. That is biologically demonstrable. We all live, and we all die. We must survive as long as we can because that is our inborn nature. And we must live together and seek happiness, for happiness is the ultimate goal.
But first we must have sufficient food and shelter ………For who can be happy in the cold with an empty belly? These things we must obtain for ourselves and our families. And that means continuous effort and the acceptance of responsibility.
My Yorkshire father and my Cockney mother believed that all should work and do the right thing by each other as far as possible, remembering that in the last analysis one has a sacred and primal duty to look after one’s own family.
In this connection my father said to me many times, “If a man has children with a woman, he should never leave her, or them.” I believed him, and I still believe him. I might add that in my view the same strictures apply to a woman, and the only possible excuse to break the union in her case might be extreme and unbearable cruelty. Many of the modern generation would disagree, I know. It is easy for articulate moderns to juggle with words and show that licence and self-indulgence are permissible and even intelligent, while duty and responsibility are unnecessary. It only worries me that in sowing the wind, they may in later years reap a whirlwind in a delinquent and unstable society.
Did I say that we should seek happiness? Of course we should. But true happiness and an integrated society can only come from the acceptance of duty and responsibility by all of us.
One could now enter into a lengthy and extremely boring dissertation on religious morals and political philosophies and hypocrisies, but enough is enough. My descendants will decide of their own accord whether they wish to be socialists, Marxists, capitalists or opportunists, Catholics, Shmatholics, Protestants, Jews or Callathumpians. All that has no importance, provided they are good people.
I have one regret in my life. I wish I had spent more time with my children when they were young. But, too often, I was working overtime, or was too upset or worried to be able to give more generously of my time. Children are our greatest treasure, and we have them for such a short while. I hope that my own children learn from my mistakes.
Oscar Wilde said somewhere: “As they grow older, children judge their parents. Sometimes they forgive them.”
I wish this for my grandchildren and great grandchildren all down the years – that each one of them may become what Irene’s mother, in Yiddish, would have called a “Mensch”! A Mensch is a courageous, well-balanced person, able to control every situation with intelligence and strength of character.
If I were ever elevated to the English House of Lords (a very remote possibility!) and had to look for a family motto, I would have emblazoned on a scroll the words of Edith Piaf, the French nightclub singer. She had known great poverty, being literally born on a Parisian sidewalk.
With typical Gallic economy of phrase, she said: “C’est pas une honte d’etre pauvre, mais c’en est une de vouloir rester dans la crasse!” – It is not a disgrace to be poor…But it certainly becomes one if you are prepared to remain in the shit!”.
…Now there was a Mensch!!!
When Irene and I came to Australia in 1949, I looked from Caringbah towards Sydney one night, and was inspired to make one of my rare, mostly disastrous, and always incautious incursions into verse.
I might finish off this memoir with those lines.
Before doing so, I should explain that in those days “Displaced Persons” was a euphemism for a refugee from a camp in war-torn Europe. “New Australian” was a term coined by the Department of Immigration to distinguish those Pommies and Reffos who had only recently arrived from the other Pommies and Reffos, (now dinky-di Aussies), who had been in this country for at least one generation. The term “New Australian” had an honoured currency for many years, and in some fashion might even have helped to weld together those of different ethnic origins into one Australian amalgam.
Well ……………here comes the poetry.
Silent suburban Sydney, softly folded in the star-shot fog of night…
What other being of some far-off time gazed upon a similar sight?
Perhaps some dark-skinned hunter on his nocturnal way,
Perhaps some exiled convict stared as I across the black of Botany Bay.
I too am exiled from the land where I was born,
And my heart too is by a sweet nostalgia torn.
Yet this is pure illusion, I suspect…
Because all things – the good and bad – are good…in retrospect.
The squalor, slums and class distinction one forgets.
Time heals the festering wounds…then one regrets.
Yet this Australia – just another land for me –
Shall for my children and their children “Homeland” be.
Here Displaced Persons, once denied the right to live,
Their strength, their talents and their sons, shall to Australia give.
The dreaming, red-tipped bushland gums shall start
Then to the muted thunder of a nation’s heart.
And we will build within this southern space —
We Britons, Greeks, Italians, Poles – a new Australian race.
To survive, my children, that is the object, to survive without hurting the other fellow any more than you have to. Perhaps, with luck, in this new country, we may do a little better than survive.
So good luck to you all – family, friends and readers of my tale – and very much love.