Sunday, 3 November 2013

Youth: Kenneth Robert Brand MB BS was my friend.

Dr Ken Brand casual style 1985
When my family moved to clayfield in Easter 1958, I managed to go for a walk around the block by myself at the age of nearly 5. It was a big adventure, worried my parents silly.. but I met this fellow who lived at 100 Bayview Terrace.

Ken Brand was his name. He was 2 years older than me, and as the years passed we became the best of friends. We had a lot in common, the babies of the family with a big gap in ages to our siblings. And we liked mechanical things. We made go karts out of timber with wheels and axles that we purchased from "Handy Needs" at Clayfield. (Where the Sultan's Kitchen now stands) For my 7th birthday, my folks gave me a Cyclops scooter with pump up tyres and ball  bearing wheels. Most unusual as most scooters had solid rubber wheels and ran on needle roller bearings. Ken was fascinated by this and I can still remember his reaction when first he saw it. Ball bearing wheels?

His dad Victor was  a keen  gardener and as he was digging weeds, Ken said.. "Look dad, Mark's scooter has pneumatic tyres!" That was Ken.. I called them pump up.. he used the right word to describe them.. and he still was about to turn 9!

In fact today the 53 year old scooter is about to be loaded into a skip as I clean out our home. This fact and also that Ken would have turned 62 on Tuesday, were he still alive, was the Genesis of this post.

Bicycles came into our lives.. we would often ride to the old Airport at Eagle farm for a milkshake.. or even down to the sewerage treatment plant at Luggage Point to get up to no good. We both went to the Eagle Junction State School, but then Ken went to Grammar in the city. He joined the air cadets. I can still see him in my minds eye walking up our street coming from the train station on his way home in full uniform... carrying his 303 rifle.

You see they used to get the cadets to take them home to clean them! Hard to believe now!

So the years roll by.. we make gunpowder in a mortar and pestle that my father had from his days as a "chemist" in the British Army in Poonah. What do you do with gunpowder? Well.. you blow things up.. what else? But that is definitely another story!

Then cars come into our lives. As a second year medical student Ken bought a brand new Torana GTR. With a stove hot 2600 S motor. Man.. what a machine. And didn't we have some fun in that car. A week trip to Sydney and back in early 1972. Racing an E Type Jaguar through outback New South Wales. (We actually won that one.. the Jag chickened out... or perhaps the driver was more mature than us)

And then.. bush walking and camping (we walked to the wreck of the Stinson and also climbed Mt Barney amongst other things) trail bikes and Land Rovers. Ken loved to explore. We always had to see what was around the next corner before we headed for home (it made for some long days) and we always had to have lunch by some water.. rock pool or creek! Trips to Fraser Island by land Rover and later trail bike followed. He was a great mate.

But something I never knew about Ken until he married Carol in 1974 (I was groomsman) was that he suffered with cystic fibrosis. Not long after he graduated his health really stared to decline. Although he wanted to do research in medicine his health wouldn't allow it. He was very bright.. all "A"s in Junior and all "7"s in senior made this man one clever Doctor. Eventually he opened a General Practice in Sandgate. His patients all loved him for his empathy, compassion and brilliant medical care.

He was a my best friend.. always guiding me in so many ways. When my ex took off with the gardener from her work place, leaving me in a great financial mess.. he was there with sound, caring advice. He offered cash to help.. but I declined. Money going back and forwards between friends is always a bad thing it seems to me. Life went on and we enjoyed many things.

But always the evidence of his failing health was the elephant in the room as his hospital stays became more and more common.

And then came that sad phone call from his sister Bev at 07:00 on Good Friday, the 13th (a real black friday for us all) in 1990. Ken had passed at 06:30 that morning in hospital from his CF.

I was shattered and even now 23 years later I get teary when I remember our firendship. Ken was only given 38 summers on this earth, but the world really was a better place for his being here.. just ask any of his patients from Sandgate.. or any of his friends.

We scattered Ken's ashes in a creek out the back of Mt Glorious where we used to trail ride. And I brought home a river stone from that creek.. every time I look at it.. I remember Ken and some of the best days of my life! And you know that sometimes when I ride the Yamaha in that area I feel his presence too!

Dr Ken Brand MB BS at graduation 1974
Me with Ken on Moreton Island Easter 1986.