Retired now, Jim in his favourite Parisian café has before him the letter from Ingrid, his estranged daughter. She is happy and has included photos of her son’s fifth birthday party. She has asked her father again to go over his life story, from the beginning. He is to include all the juicy bits, she says, and not spill a single drop.
His story begins during the war years, in their home in a gritty inner city working class suburb of Sydney. He is at crawling age. On his dining room floor he can feel the vibrations of footsteps and hear from the glass-fronted dresser the rattle and tinkle tattle of crockery and glass. He grows into a larrikin, fights in street gangs with shields and swords, throws stones and kicks over garbage bins; they even skewered dead rats.
The family migrates to a building site in the Australian wilderness, where they, like the early pioneers, felled trees to carve out new lives for themselves. Both parents die young in short succession.
Jim’s halcyon years are his university years, living it up in the bright light district of Kings Cross, a “den of iniquity,” as it was known, where he meets other young artists who inspire him. He graduates with a degree in architecture, builds a home, marries, has a daughter and runs a successful practice for the next thirty years. His wife falls in love with another.
On early retirement Jim goes and settles in Paris. He learns to type and develops a passion for photography. Over the next thirty years he ventures out to discover the world through the lens of his camera. He focuses on many extraordinary faces and tries to capture the essential character of place, places where few other travellers dared to go, certainly no tourists.
He will write it all down and include his best photos and the juicy bits. It will take him at least five hundred pages.
It is a very human story, at times sad and poignant, at other times hilariously funny.