Another of my favourite tales from Dad’s childhood was “How I Was Attacked by a Peacock.” My experience of peacocks then was limited to the handful of bedraggled birds in the local park, pinioned so they couldn’t fly very far. They rarely displayed the full panoply of their feathers, and we spent fruitless hours stalking them for photo ops. By the time Dad had organized his camera, they had either disdainfully turned their backs on him, or scattered away, shrieking.
“See this scar here?” Dad would say, tilting his chin right up and pointing to one side of his neck near his Adam’s apple. I got attacked by a peacock!” He was eleven years old and was playing in the neighbour’s garden. He loved birds and had been following this peacock for some time, to see if his mate’s nest was nearby. “All of sudden, the damn thing flew at me, feet first, and used its spurs to cut a gash in my neck. There was blood everywhere.” “I expect you were teasing it,” my mother said, raising her eyebrows. Dad fought between telling a good tale and telling the truth and came up with a compromise. “Well maybe a little, but still…..”
He ran back home and there was consternation in the household. The servant went for the doctor. Stinging disinfectant was poured over the wound while they waited. Eventually, he had stitches, and it healed into a thin, thread like line.
“We lived in Coffee Grove. There was a lake we used to fish in and a little island we could camp on.” Dad smiled, dreamily. “Was it a coffee plantation?” I asked. “No, no, it was just where we lived in Rangoon. We had mango trees in the back yard.” Mango trees! I had only eaten mango that came in cans, its turpentiney tang fighting with the oily flesh and sweet scent until I decided I quite liked it, after all. “We would climb the trees and get heck from Mum, coming in all dirty. We also had jackfruit, papaya, banana and coconut.” What the heck was jackfruit? “It’s sort of…,” and Dad would describe a shape in the air with his hands, like a rugby ball. “And it was spiny, but inside it was so sweet and soft.”
I thought of the trees in our yard. We had plums, apples and a pear. I wanted to visit Coffee Grove, right now. More than fifty years later, I did.