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Four Pines

James Walker
Acrylic on canvas • 74 × 120 cm

My father pretty much claimed ownership of an airline when he started working for TAA in 1979 at Launceston airport as a baggage handler, or porter as it was called at the time. He worked at that location for 30 years with the airline eventually becoming Qantas, but during that time he defined himself through this role.

It didn’t take long for his ears became finely tuned to the sound of jet engines and the aircraft they belonged to. Regardless of where you were, he would be quick to point out that that “was one of ours” with a check of his watch to make sure it was running on time. It was always one of ours or one of theirs if Ansett happened to be occupying our airspace.

The airline and the airport defined our entire family too. It was a location our family felt some title over. We knew the people, the lingo and the little secrets and wonders the place held. For 10 years I ended up working for the same airline in the same position and at the same location as my father but I never felt he connection he did, although I still look for landscape markers, specific trees, folds in the hills and traces on the tarmac of a life once lived.

I left Tasmania, my home, two years ago but I come back regularly to visit my parents. Launceston airport is the gateway to many of my memories and I always feel comfort when I track the length of the Tamar River, particularly if I fly home on the Dash, that’s Mum’s plane, according to Dad anyway…