Igor the Great
Quirky finds that fortunately, appearances can sometimes be deceptive.
with John Quirk
A few of you reading this may remember him so let’s just call him Igor. His real names were unpronounceable to anyone this side of the Iron Curtain. I saw them once in his Australian passport; consonants from the back of the alphabet and hardly a vowel in sight. They looked like an optician’s eye chart.
I met Igor at a party the first weekend that I arrived in Australia. I was temporarily in a hotel and after a few refreshing reds, Igor was in a fine mood; he flung an arm over my shoulder, hiccupped, and announced.
“Quirky, my girl frien leaf. You move in vith me.”
He later picked me up in a white BMW and I was decanted into a majestic townhouse overlooking the harbour. It was breathtaking.
“You like? These townhouses mine too. The six on this side.”
I complimented him on the houses and said they all had a fine view over the water and particularly that lovely ketch moored in front.
“She nice eh? That mine too.”
There were photographs of his previous boats all over his study, including one of half a dozen yachts rafted up in a mirror calm bay.
“Which one is yours?” I asked.
“Vat you think? I am vith girl frien. From my boat is coming ripples”.
Over bottles of paint stripper red and dinners of goulash that seemed to last for the three months I stayed with him, Igor filled me in on bits of an interesting life.
During that time, I almost lost the use of the definite and indefinite articles as ‘the’ and ‘a’ rarely appeared in his sentences. He was in his low forties, dashingly handsome with a thatch of blond hair, Slavic cheekbones and a smile from the commercial of a Beverly Hills dentist.“Ven I qualify as architect back home, vife and I get special permission to haf day in Vest Germany to see exhibition. I haf frien there and they say there is plane leaving for Owstralia today for migrants, but must go today, you vant? I vant! Ven plane land in Singapore I send post card to office saying ‘Help! Haf been kidnapped by Singaporean pirates. Please send help’.”
“Ve arrife in Owstralia and speak no English, I haf little German. I go through Yellow Pages for builder vith German name. I go round, I do perspectives for him. I clean bars at night. And I vork on building sites in the day.
“Vife, she sit at home and write letters to mother. Saying Owstralia terrible place, nobody speak our language, Igor is never here. I vorking tree (3) jobs to pay for rent, food and stamps to mother.
“Ewentually she say she leafing, ‘Vhere is vestern vealt? Ve always be poor. Mother vas right, she say you never amount to anyting’. She leaf. She diworce me by mail. Then I hear she marry some prick in Gowernment vith safe job.
“So I keep vorking all these jobs and get deposit for house. I draw plans for Council for friens. For this, they lay bricks or do vork on house. I sell, buy another and fix up. I keep doing this.
“Soon, I am getting better houses; I rent out and buy this block of land. Build six houses. I keep one, rent others out. That is it. No more vork. I haf this boat here for Owstralian summer and Halberg Rassey 42 footer in Greece for Northern summer.”
But before he left for his summer vacation, Igor had to finish the landscaping of the last house in the row. He was working frantically with his team; covered in cement and mud and realised he had no milk for the workers tea. He strolled to the local corner store and joined a queue. Then as he scratched around in his work jeans found he had no money.
As the multi-millionaire Igor told it, “So nice lady behind counter say, don’t vorry. You pay me ven you haf money. Then there is shriek from back of queue. It is first vife!
Husband vas posted to gowernment job in Owstralia. She look me up and down. I in filthy vork clothes, covered in shit and mud. She see I haf no money for milk. She say “Mother vas right. Look at you. She say you never amount to ANYTING!”
*John Quirk has been writing about and illustrating the joys of messing about in boats for over half a century. He is the author / illustrator of Foul Bottoms, published by Adlard Coles and available from Boat Books in Crows Nest and from Amazon.