The West: Peter Foster


It is important that I get this off my chest, my relationship with Peter Foster, you know, the bloke who is awaiting trial on trumped-up charges in Queensland and recently escaped from the KGB in Columbia, or a country with a similar shape.

When I first saw him, form a distance, he certainly seemed accident prone, financially prone, people prone, mainly prone.

Later, I thought he was a good bloke with a funny looking head full of hilarity and some other stuff I couldn’t get a handle on, or there wasn’t a handle, I wasn’t sure which.

It was my father who brought us together. He was a butcher, well, he said he was a butcher, but he wasn’t, he was a small-arms dealer plying the volatile islands between a whole lot of other islands in the South Pacific.

At least, that’s what he said.

If he was alive today, he’d be so close to dead he might as well stay where he is, but if he was, I’d ask: “What did you really do, when you went away for months at a time?”

Mum used to say: “He’s on business for your Uncle Ted.”

Years later, when I told her about dad running guns, she denied it: “No, he meant gum, he was a gum-runner, a travelling salesman for Wrigley’s.”

When I was 12 he left for good and we never saw him again. Over the years I saw a lot of men around his age who looked like him, talked like him and I asked each and every one of them: “Are you my father?”

Not one replied in the affirmative, some of them ran, three cuffed me on the back of the head, two said, as far as they could remember, they were skiing in the Alps at the time and one swore it wasn’t him but he knew someone who looked just like a man who could be my father..

This is where Peter Foster comes in.

Recently, in another attempt to find the man behind the father I never knew, I sought out Foster, who was well known in Fiji as a medium sized, plump, flatulent man who had a habit of bringing people together, then turning them against each other.

I liked him because he spoke English with an Australian accent and ate peanut butter and jam sandwiches with a slice of banana on top.

Peter said he was a research officer for the British Secret Service Agency MI5, the RSPCA, or BHP, or he sold cheap jewellery to rich American tourists with big stomachs, skinny ankles and swollen necks. It was hard to tell.

He was exciting to be around because every day was a new day. He said he knew this for a fact because he made a point of watching the sun go down, then come up again.

I paid Foster hundreds to help me find my father. And then I paid him thousands.

Everything went well until he claimed he had uncovered a plot by the President of the United States to net all fish in the Pacific Ocean and transport them to Florida, where they would be trained to invade Cuba.

It ran in all the papers and then it ran us out of town.

Everyone was after us, the Americans, the Fijians, the vegetarians and we had to swim from Fiji to Vanuatu, which we did, with considerable help from a passing steamer.

The captain of the streamer was a man who looked a lot like a lot of men I had spoken to over the years, or someone who looked like them and as I dived overboard for the last 200metres, I could have sworn he said: “Your real father is the new Secretary General of the United Nations.”

When we arrived on shore, I asked Foster if he had ever worked for the United Nations. He said: “Of course I have. I was once a roving ambassador for UNESCO, with special responsibilities for nubility, proximity and gold bullion.”

Despite hundreds of emails, mobile phone calls and letters to MI5, I never heard from Peter Foster again.

Until this week. He rang and asked if I would get my father to arrange diplomatic immunity for him.

I said: “Don’t be silly. My father’s a butcher in Dalwallinu.”

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