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Fathers and Sons

This picture is a candidate for the cover of Peter Cleary’s latest novel, “FATHERS AND SONS”. The photograph was taken by the author on a road trip to the Cape in 2017. The new novel is going through the final editing phases and should be published in print and e-book form shortly.

The following are the title pages and full text of the first chapter of the book.



The legacy of honour and duty

Peter Cleary



It’s not time to make a change,

Just relax, take it easy

You’re still young, that’s your fault

There’s so much you have to know

Find a girl, settle down

If you want you can marry

Look at me, I’m old

But I’m happy

I was once like you are now

And I know that it’s not easy

To be calm when you’ve found

Something going on

But take your time, think a lot

Think of everything you’ve got

For you will still be here tomorrow

But your dreams may not.

Cat Stevens

Father and Son



This story is for Derrick, Andrew and Dylan.

Fathers and sons.




Coming Home




He stopped the rental car short of the entrance gate and got out, stretched his cramped limbs, smelling the dust disturbed by the passage of the car on the gravel road. Before him stood the gate that was a symbol of his youth. He had still been in junior school when his father bought the property.

The gate spread across the double entrance, high enough to admit the tallest truck, the steel crosspiece bearing the name:

Karoo Guest Farm

Luke Calder had not seen that entrance gate since the election of 1994, when he was free to return to the country, and now in the second year of a new millennium.

He stood a long time, testing what he saw against the memories, feeling a kind of joy to be there, despite the heartache that lay waiting.

The Karoo Guest Farm was an oasis in that dry and empty land: the forest of trees planted by his parents three decades earlier hiding many of the white painted cottages; the green meadows with the animals ambling back to their pens at that time of the evening,  and the playing fields and tennis courts. But the feature that he most remembered in dreams was the mountain behind the resort that dominated what man had built at its foot.

In the light of the setting sun the mountain flamed orange, a timeless presence.

It was the end of a long day and night which had started with the late flight out of Heathrow. He had found no rest in the darkened cabin, uncomfortable and ill at ease with his memories. And once more he walked on the land of his birth, down the customs line designated for foreigners, he with his British passport, feeling the stir of emotions at being back despite the aggravation caused by the wait and the impersonal scrutiny of the officials.

Finally he was free of the will of others and driving out of the airport precinct and heading south.

Eight hundred kilometres. Traversing the country that he still called home, despite his enforced departure in 1981 and his passport proclaiming his citizenship of another country.

He was not sure how he would face the next few days.


Two days earlier his sergeant had entered his office to tell him Lieutenant Colonel Withers wished to see him. It was not far but he had to leave his building to cross to another. There was a strong wind blowing off the Channel. In the far distance he could see the white wave tops it was kicking up in the channel.

Lt Colonel Withers stood when he entered the office. That was unusual. Nick Withers was not known for social niceties. A no-nonsense man.

“Ah, Luke. Come sit.”

Even more unusual and Major Luke Calder readied himself for some kind of arm wrestle.

“You wanted to see me, Sir?”


Withers looked ill at ease and Luke knew the conversation would not be about the brigade.

“There’s no easy way to say this, Luke. I’m very sorry to tell you that your mother and father were killed in a car crash last evening.”

His mind froze, the news catastrophic.

It was impossible to take it in. His mother and father. Those wonderful, young-at-heart people. The people closest to him in all the world, despite the years wasted, the absent years. All his potential plans to spend time with them after his duty was completed. To go home to the place where he had been at his happiest, spend some time there, reassess his life, lean on the wisdom of his father.

He composed himself the way they had been trained at Lympstone, the commando training facility. Hide the shock and outward manifestations of grief. Cheerfulness in the face of adversity. Ask questions.

“Last evening?”


“Where did it happen?”

“Doesn’t say, Major. Here’s the e-mail.”

Luke read it. It said very little more. It was addressed to the Officer Commanding, 42 Commando, Royal Marines, Bickleigh, Devon, sent by a woman named Carol Dutton, no title. Luke did not know her. He knew his father had hired a manager when he reached seventy years of age. That was two years ago. It was his habit to phone his parents once or twice a month unless he was in deployment. They had been pleased with the person they hired.

She knew the communication protocol and perhaps had the decency to make sure someone was with him when he read it.

“You’ll want to be there?”


“The work in the Gulf is as good as done, Luke. Take all the time you need, just keep my aide informed.”

“I will. Thank you, Sir.”


Luke drove into the grounds and decided to go directly to his parents’ house which was on the slope of the mountain, the highest building, and walk back down to the main buildings which housed the office, reception area, kitchen, restaurant and bar. He hoped to find Carol Dutton still on duty, make her acquaintance, thank her and get the latest news. Then he saw a large Mercedes sedan at the house and changed his course to drive directly to the office.

A woman came out on to the verandah to the office. He assumed it was Dutton and she had been looking out for him, knew his flight schedule and his intention to drive straight through.

He parked directly below the verandah, saw she was about his age, dark haired, good upright stance, wearing jeans, a large jersey and riding boots, winter wear in the Karoo. She greeted him.

“You must be Luke.”


“You look like your father.”

“That’s a compliment. And you must be Carol.”

“Yes. You didn’t go straight to your house?”

“No, wanted to know the lay of the land. I assume that’s my sister’s car?”

“Yes, they arrived yesterday.”

“The whole tribe?”

“Husband, wife and three children. Is that the whole tribe?”


Close up he could see she was a good looking woman, regular features, and luxurious dark hair, worn long.

He shook her hand.

“Thank you for sending the email, Carol. You did the right thing sending it to my OC.”

“Thank you, my father was in the military.”

“Permanent force?”

“Yes. Did his national service and decided to stay on for a short term duty.”

“That was unusual for those days. Fifties or sixties, I would guess.”

“Yes. Won’t you come into the office, it’s getting cold out here.”

It was a nice office, planned to be that way by his father, facing west, catching the last light, nirvana in winter too hot in summer.

When they sat down she spoke again.

“I’m so sorry for your loss, Luke. They were awesome people, and loved you dearly.”

“Thank you. Your loss too, I would guess. They spoke well of you.”

“Yes, a loss for all of us who work here. This has been a wonderful two years of my life.”

He wondered what would happen to her, had no idea what the wishes of his parents were.

“So what’s the plan, Carol?”

“The memorial service is ten days off, next Saturday, at the Methodist church in Cradock. Your parents attended that church and had a good relationship with the pastor. His name is Charles Godwin. The reason for the delayed service is that the pastor was on leave and persuaded your sister to wait until he could conduct the service.

“And their lawyer is coming out here tomorrow around ten to speak to you and your sister about the will.”

“That still Duncan Exelby?”


“What happened, Carol?”

“They’re still trying to work it out. They were coming back on Sunday in the early evening from a visit to friends in Queenstown. It was getting dark. Bad light I suppose. The other vehicle was a heavy duty truck. Both vehicles ended up on your parent’s side of the road. On a corner. They think the truck was cutting the corner and that the driver had not switched his lights on.”

“Oh shit what a tragedy.”

He composed himself and she waited for him.

“What happened to the truck driver?”

“They don’t know.”


“He ran away, Luke.”

“They do that in this country?”


“Who owned the truck?”

“It was a furniture delivery truck, owned by Vulcan, a company operating mostly in the cheap end of the market.”

“And they’ve not identified their driver.”

“Yes, we have a name, but the man has disappeared.”

“God, how do you get your mind around that?”

She said nothing.

“Okay, Carol, thank you for the information. Are we eating in the dining room tonight?”

“No, your sister has arranged a meal in your folk’s house. She’s expecting you.”

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