Monday, 24 July 2017

The clock ticks, the hair goes from brown to grey to white..

The clock ticks, the hair goes from  brown to grey to white.. I guess bringing us (well me) much closer to that long good night.

Sounds a bit maudlin... but no, I am not thinking dark thoughts.

But with another birthday passing and now the next big birthday will have a 7 in front of it...  I have decided to stop along the way and think.. and plan.

First the thinking. (I wasn't much good at this at school!) But tonight I am thinking about the past 6+ decades and all of the people and things that have come and gone in my life. Sort of like watching a big movie in my head really.

Lots of sunny days.. but a few rainy ones too. I give thanks for the folks who shared the sunny days with me, and even more thanks to the ones who helped me through the rainy days.

And forgiveness to those who caused the rainy days. From those dark days I came to learn that what doesn't kill you really does make you stronger. And that is all I want to say about the dark days.

I was blessed to have an amazing father who was 55 years of age when I arrived on planet earth. And I got to spend 25 years with him until in 1979, the grim reaper came for him at 3 in the morning. The things my father taught me in that big old house at Clayfield, I still carry with me to this day. His knowledge of the human condition & his way of persuading others to see things his way in meetings was legendary.  The great thing I either learned or inherited from him was his ability to write letters that get results. For me that is something that I do regularly and in 8 out of 10 cases I get the result I want.

When I think about a 67 year old man rebuilding a bicycle for his 12 year old son with skills I didn't even know he possessed. (He actually learned how to do that in WW1 in the British Army) Or watching him restore an old coffee table for me at the age of 80 when he was riddled with cancer. I loved that table as it was the last thing he worked on under our family home... sadly no longer mine. The division of spoils by the family court saw to that.

As he lay in his death bed, he talked business, gave me advice and also talked about the war. He said to me.. "Son, war changes men." At the time I was having issues with my father in law, a WW2 vet who along with his wife was an alcoholic. I was less than charitable to him.. but I did lighten up a lot following my father's passing. Dad was very stoic about his pending shuffle off this mortal coil. And would often quote Gray's Elegy. He had as a young man sat in that church yard and recited Gray's lines... but for him the first few versus were enough at this time of his life's end...

"The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, 
         The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
         And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Now fades the glimm'ring landscape on the sight,
         And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
         And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;
Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow'r
         The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such, as wand'ring near her secret bow'r,
         Molest her ancient solitary reign.
Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
         Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
         The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
         The swallow twitt'ring from the straw-built shed,
The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
         No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.
For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
         Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire's return,
         Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share. "

And then he was gone out of my life forever.... to this day I miss him so much.

That big old house where I grew up. Hard to leave.

Then there was mother.. she loved all of her sons to death. A less charitable person might say she was over possessive with her sons. For my 6th birthday in year one, she invited the entire class. I kid you not. Around forty or so  5 and 6 year olds tearing around the lounge room at Clayfield must have been quite a site. But later in life, bring a new girlfriend home and boy would she give them the third degree. Funny thing is.. she eventually came to love them too. Because of this weird attitude of hers, I tended to keep quiet about the girls I met. She had been a school teacher (English and Maths) earlier in life.. and it never left her. As a small boy she would educate me in the physics of metal fatigue at the age of 10. (Truly) And also explain how things got hot and cold. She didn't know it at the time but she was talking about the Laws of Thermodynamics. Specific heat, latent heat of vaporisation etc. Amazing to already know this when it popped up in year 10 Science B as it was called back then.

Mum sending the traders crazy in Nadi in 1975

She sent me crazy with things to be involved in.. Methodist OK group on Friday night, Violin lessons on Saturday morning, Cubs on Saturday afternoon, Sunday school and church on Sunday morning and then homework on Sunday afternoon. As an 11 year old... I thought this was over the top. Eventually we just stayed with violin lessons until I wanted to change to guitar.. well that went over like a Lead Lancaster I can tell you. She (and father) hated Rock and Roll.

Still she was there when I started my apprenticeship and made sure my work clothes were washed and cleaned. Welcomed my friends into our family home and I don't know how many times the Ford Car Club of QLD ended up having functions at our home. The day my father died I saw a sadness in her that she never recovered from in the remaining 19 years of her life. And now I look back on her with love and thanks and realise that like all of us.. she struggled with life at times.

A happy day.. May and Ron on their wedding in 1949. 

40% of the siblings reunion in Oz. Dad, Uncle Bill, Aunty Tilly and Uncle Guss.

Of course life went on.. new cars (lots of them) new motorbikes (lots of them too!) and lots of friends. Some I met at school and am still in touch with today and some I met through MAX Instruments and also still in touch with now too. My friends all started to marry and in the fullness of time, so did I. As it turned out.. that was mistake. Not the marriage itself, but rather marrying the wrong person. I learned the hard way never to assume fidelity was a given in a marriage. And that is all I have to say about those 10 years.

So in my 30s I found myself living the life of a bachelor in my little cottage at Albion. My bachelor mates and fellow divorced friends would drop in usually on a Friday night and the Sansui was cranked up and the music played. Sometimes the photographers would come and we would shoot our friends in the studio and print in the dark room those magic B&W prints till dawn's light.

We even shot the Honda in the studio... getting it out!

And then one day, when I least expected it... Debra came into my life. My niece Toni and her now late ex husband set us up on a blind date.. just for a joke. They thought Debra and I were cheese and chalk. Well we were.. but something clicked. A passion for travel was the big thing that united us from day one, plus Debra's assistance at all of my weddings. The brides and the guys loved her. At one wedding at Indooroopilly Golf Club, one of the groomsmen got me aside and said.. "Your assistant is hot and I think she digs you. Play your cards right tonight and..."  Funny as. She carried my camera bags, calmed the brides and designed some amazing shots for me to capture. What a girl. Talk about a keeper.

Phuket in 2012.

Deb's shot of me in Amsterdam in 2104

Our travels have taken us on over 40 overseas trips in nearly 30 years. (One year was when we went to Scotland to get married. Well after 11 years together we figured it was time) We actually stopped counting at 40 trips ... and travel really brings out the best in us as a couple. These past 30 years have just flown past... and Debra has been so supportive along the way. When I wanted to leave MAX Instruments after 27 years and run the studio full time, she was fine with it. And when I wanted to get back into motorcycling, she was fine with it. In fact the last birthday card she gave me had written in her own handwriting.. "get back on that bike and get out there." We built a new house together. Now that was very important. The house I had when we met was picked by the ex wife, the one we recently lived in (Armagh House) was picked by my parents... but this one is ours. And we just love it. Our friends come and break bread with us and share a drink and fine conversations. We love them all and are so lucky to have and know them. Makes getting older fun!

Our life is rich! We are blessed and we know it and give thanks.

The new home under construction.

Getting closer!

Here on independence day 2016

Our Stars & Stripes cake in the kitchen.

Debra designed the master bedroom. Magic!

Deb on Fat Max before the Winton excursion last year.

So now after that burst of looking back.. comes the planning. How we spend our time.. well it's the currency of our lives and this isn't a practice run. It's game on! So the planning continues.

Canada is on the list.. possibly next year for us both. Another assault on the Snowy Mountains for me on Fat Max when it doesn't bloody rain down there. And spending more time with our friends. And we both would love to return to the scene of the crime, Dingwell in the Scottish Highlands where we were married on a rainy Friday afternoon 19 years ago.

Deb is thinking she would love a V8 Stang.. but her 12 year old Z4 roadster hasn't done 20,000 km yet. I am happy with the Calis v but am thinking of a new Fuji Medium Format Camera. We will see what the universe provides. Of course these are mere possessions and we really never own them.. after all we are only visiting the planet for what is a very short time it would seem.

You know, it seems to me that most people aim for nothing and hit it with amazing accuracy. For Debra and I .. why not choose where life takes you? (Well as much as you can.)

So looking at the calendar and planning is what I was doing tonight when I got this mad impulse to write it all down. I hope it hasn't sent you all up the wall.



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