Anton's Ideas

Anton Wills-Eve on world news & random ideas

Month: January, 2015

My lady at twilight

<a href=””>Oasis</a&gt;

The oasis to which my ageing mind flees when threatened or depressed.

My lady at twilight

My vision’s crepuscular world is now part lit
That grey garden, my mind, thrice-fold twilit.
Leaving me lost in a twilight world of my own,
By my parents’ thrice-lit seeds was it sown.

Those seeds of life blossomed in May
A different bright memory each day.
From all of them their flowers grew taller
As their roots, my brain, shrank ever smaller.

So now with only my past life and my sighs,
Through the dim twilight dream of my eyes,
All my straining vision can see is part shady.
Save the face of my fairest, sweet lady.

Anton Wills-Eve

The Night my Mother met a Saint in her Pyjamas.

<a href=””>For Posterity</a>

in reply to  “which post would I most like to be remembered by.”

The date is forever engraved in my memory. It was the 18th of October 1961 and our family was enjoying probably the best holiday we ever had together. My father had spent the summer covering the Franco-Algerian peace talks in Evian on the banks of Lake Geneva, or Lac Leman as the French call it, and he and mum deserved their three week break. My sister managed to bunk off university in London for a few weeks and I did the same from the Sorbonne in Paris. Mum was terminally ill and we all knew it could well be the last time the four of us would get a proper vacation together. We planned a drive down to Rome, via Switzerland, Milan and Florence and were returning, first south to Positano for a week’s stay and returning via Pompeii and up the Mediterranean coast to take in Pisa, Genoa, Monaco,  Nice and the Rhone valley. Five days were to be spent in the Italian capital. The third of these was the most memorable day in my life.

Although an Australian, dad was the chief correspondent in Paris of a major American news organisation and my mother was a retired entertainer of considerable fame in Britain whose health had cut short her career when she was thirty five, just after the start of the second world  war. Indeed my birth in 1942 was the last normal act on her part in her life. Being born and brought up a staunch Catholic in Glasgow in Scotland she made sure that my sister and I were educated at the best Catholic schools we could be. My agnostic father always kept his promise to bring us up as Catholics, making sure we never missed Mass on Sundays, but then as often as possible none of us missed a couple of hours at our local pub on a Sunday lunch time either. Mum was often bed ridden and had to spend her drinking hours with friends at home in our thirty seven room mansion near Richmond Park. You can see we were a rather unusual quartet. But the greatest thing about my formative years was that all the family had terrific senses of humour and, I can honestly say, really loved each other.

I grew up a Catholic who was wonderfully close to their  Faith and served Mass as often as I could. I quite shocked the monks at the Abbey which ran our school when I turned up at the sixth form ball in 1959, I would have been seventeen I suppose, with Teresa, the most stunningly beautiful girl, on my arm. She is still one of my closest friends although we were never sweethearts, but she did enough to dispel the certainty amongst many of the school staff that I was going to become a priest. Indeed she singled out the headmaster, she knew him because her brother was at the school, and said to him in a little louder voice than was necessary, “Yes, Father, Anton really loves God more than any boy I have met. But boy, Father, does he also love me. I think God’s got a battle on his hands with us!”

My mother was told of this story a few days later and phoned Teresa to thank her.  It was with this type of background, both religious and public, that the four of us set out for Italy in the autumn of 1961. When we drove off from the family home on the Ile Saint Louis in Paris we were all determined to have a really good time. I was nineteen and a half and my sister not quite twenty one. The drive down was wonderful as we went both over and under various Alps, attended a concert at La Scala in Milan and swooned at just about everything we saw in Florence. But my sister and I could see the journey was starting to take its toll on mum. She had seriously advanced emphysema and used an inhaler most of the day. As the weather became hotter and the air less pleasant she began to find walking any distance at all very difficult. Indeed she had to miss the meal we had out on the first night in Rome with dad’s counter part there an American journalist who had known him for several years in London. He was a Catholic and told us that he had been keeping a really super surprise up his sleeve for us all. He turned to dad during the meal and said,

“Paul, you’ll all love this. Did you know that in two days it is the fiftieth anniversary of the overseas press club in the Vatican and a very select number of correspondents have been invited to meet Pope John and have an informal audience with him that evening? They desperately wanted a Catholic family to be part of this and I told the Bishop organising the audience that you, as an Australian journalist of note, your two English Catholic children and your well known Scottish Catholic wife were all in town and thanks to your job could represent the international media family. What do you think?”

In all honesty I thought he was joking. He knew how I would react and was quite right. We all said yes but asked if we could not tell anyone about mum because there was no way she would want to miss what would be one of the greatest days of her life. We were right. She said she would go if it killed her and the three of us genuinely feared that it could.  As the time to leave the hotel got nearer mum was getting worse, She donned a black evening coat and black lace veil saying she could hide her inhaler up her sleeve and not be seen as she used it. My sister also wore a black head scarf but refused to cover her face, not that anyone asked her to. Dad just wore a grey suit. Then came the real penance of the night.

Our taxi dropped us by the papal gate entrance to the Vatican palace just by the colonnade, but we were told we had to walk up to the ante room where the Holy Father was receiving the foreign press. Mum had got ready in extremely quick time and we were only concerned in helping her manage the stairs to the small hall and room where we were invited to wait for Pope John to arrive. How mum made it I will never know, but she did. Then came the high point of the evening, indeed for me, of my life.

A jovial, smiling octogenarian literally beamed his way into the room and the fifty or so papal guests were astounded at the informality and good fun that pervaded the whole forty five minutes we were with Pope John. But just as he was scheduled to leave the Holy Father cast all four of us into a state of almost disbelieving happiness. He did the most wonderful thing. Speaking in fluent French he asked if he could meet Paul, Sarah, Michele and Anton the Catholic family from all round the world who had come to see him. He approached us and in a few brief words told us all how glad he was to meet us. HE was glad to meet US! If he only knew. As he blessed us and let us kiss his ring I cast a glance at mum, the tears streaming down her face, and realised she would have climbed Mount Everest to go through that moment in her life.

Then came a lovely scene of real humour. The apostolic delegate to the media asked if any of us needed the lifts as the stairs often proved too much for elderly or sick people. Mum turned to dad and my sister and me and said, “It may have half killed me but I’m glad I walked. It was worth it just to be able to say that I had met a Saint in my pyjamas. I was so ill I didn’t have time to dress tonight, that’s all I’m wearing under this coat.”

Dad and Michele laughed and she said, “Mum you mean the Pope, not a saint.” All mum replied was,

“I know what I said.” And the proof that she did is that on the 27th of April last year, on the 108th anniversary of mum’s birth, Pope Francis Canonized Pope John XXIII, officially raising him to the highest dignity possible for a human being to attain. I will never know how mum knew!

Anton Wills-Eve

It’s all in the voice.

<a href=””>Daring Do</a>

in response to a prompt to write a rescue story.


It was late in April 1970 when, on a balmy summer’s evening in a jungle clearing in Cambodia , Mike and I sat down to enjoy a bottle of really good Australian wine. Somehow being a war correspondent did not really matter much to either of us. We were still alive  and grateful to be. Our salaries were mounting up at a great rate in bank accounts back home, and everything in  the garden was lovely.

“What do you miss most about not being back in Oz, Mikey?” I asked him as I downed my second glass. His reply was instant.

“Easy mate. Cricket. More than a year without seeing a single ball bowled or hit. It’s getting depressing.” Just how depressing he demonstrated by finishing his third glass and starting to open a second bottle. “Gee, life’s hard in this place. Only enough wine for six glasses each and then we have to  get back to Pnom Penh to stock up again. How have you put up with it for so long ?” I smiled and explained that the seven years I spent in Paris from 1960 had made it possible for me to add a bottle of Pernod a day to my diet and this helped to create an unreal world in which nothing scared me any more.

I reckoned my body could take another couple of years of this without hinting I might be making myself ill. I was still only twenty eight and had the constitution of a water buffalo. I had been shot twice, in the lower leg and the upper arm, been blown up three times, survived a helicopter crash and, luckiest of all, actually caught a knife just as it was about to enter my rib cage. I swear I could never have done that sober. But  booze sharpened rather than slowed down my reactions. Life was not that bad as Mike said. We were really quite lucky but agreed that if we missed one thing  more than anything else it was female companionship. He put it very well when he mused,

“You know, fellah, it’s just not worth the risk of serious illness buying sex in the local knocking shops. So what else is there? I hope my Sheila back home will still love me when I return, but her letters are arriving much less frequently and if I lose her I’ll have to start looking around all over again. Gee, life can be a pig at times. What a pain to look forward to!”

I loved listening to his raw but realistic view of life. But when the second bottle ran out we got up and returned to our saloon car which we had hired at vast expense, to our newspapers not ourselves,  and started to drive back to the Cambodian capital. It was the second bullet that made us flinch. It went through the windscreen and  my delightful companion remarked, “I can’t even see if the bastard is on their side or the Americans.” He was Australian but did not support his country’s stance in the war. Like me he thought wars were just shows put on by world powers to make young journalists like us rich and nothing else. At least we could not think up a better reason for starting one.

The third and fourth bullets were more subtly aimed and punctured the two back tyres. This really infuriated Mike as he stopped the car, leaped out and threw the empty wine bottles in the direction of the shots. “Wish there was some petrol in them”, he shouted. But as a salvo of shots then sent us both diving for cover in the bushes by the roadside I began to wonder if we had drunk a bit too much or maybe the soldiers were actually trying to hit us. That is not something a journalist ever thinks in a war zone. Bullets are things shot by other people at other groups of people, but never at the press. Heavens, without us there would be no reason to have a war because nobody would ever hear about it. No question about it, bullets were never aimed at journalists.

That is, until they were. Three large American riflemen suddenly appeared before us and were definitely aiming at us. I could hardly believe it. Two troopers and a sergeant. Who the hell did they think they were? I was not having this. So I got to my  feet, very obviously white skinned, very obviously casually dressed in a dark blue beach shirt and white slacks, and with no arms of any sort any where near me. I think what froze those gunmen into stunned, rigid silence was when I spoke.”Look, I say you chaps. Don’t you think all this is a bit thick. Eh?What? Here are we, a Colonel and a Lieutenant Colonel in your army, observing this fascinating punch up between you three and the rest of Asia, and all you can do is pick on two fellows who are very obviously on your side. Do you think you could put your weapons down, change the back wheels on our motor car, and speed us on our way. Please?”

My English Public school accent astounded even Mike who had never heard me talk like that before. And as we drove away, waving gratefully to our saviours, I explained. “Well on my first assignment after university in Paris, and six years in all in France, I pulled the same stunt in fluent Parisian slang to a bunch of foreign legionaries in Algeria. And as you can see I am still here!”

Anton Wills-Eve

Happy New Year

Just a short, yet no less sincere, Happy New Year to all my friends and followers on WordPress for 2015. I am changing the order of my current plan for blogs  for the rest of 2015, so don’t be surprised if things look a bit disjointed and some posts are missing. Everything will return in a new format very soon and continue on from there.

God Bless to everyone.