Wednesday, 30 December 2020

2020. Man makes plans and God laughs.

Well what a bastard of a year was 2020? A really shit time for the planet. 

Whoever stated that a single person could not change the course of the world had never met that Chinese guy who ate that bat!

Turning the clock back.. this time last year, we were looking forward to 2020 with a lot of enthusiasm. The studio had been busy in November and December and I was pleased with its progress. I caught a note in the paper about some virus in China and thought not much of it.

My year's plans were being laid out on my yearly planner.  Because of the bushfires in NSW my late spring trip back to the Snowy Mountains had been cancelled and I was keen to mount up and head off on the BMW. But by late February, it was pretty plain to see that a trip down there might find me locked out of QLD. So no trip and the big bike was locked down along with us in the house.

The big German girl in the Snowy in 2019

Debra's asthma issues meant we had to avoid at all costs her coming down with COVID-19. At the time it had the capacity to put the fear of God into people. And so we were locked down for around 6 weeks. Her beautiful staff member Helen, held the fort for us and boy did she work hard. Finally Deb felt confident to go back to work, lots of hand wash and face masks followed. Customers would steal the hand wash from her fitting rooms. Talk about living in weird times.

One noteworthy event was that on a drive down to Redcliffe during all of this, Debra's mighty Z4 turned over 20,000 km. Now at 22,201 km. Not bad for a car 16 years old.

As the year rolled on we did have lots of political candidates through the studio for the head shots for their corflutes and that kept the wheels of industry ticking over. All managed in our small studio with social distancing in mind too! Plus some on site images too!

Many thanks to Bobby Pearson Electrical

Now Debra had intended to fly to the USA in July to catch up with her dear friends Len and Pat who live in Pennsylvania. Well that plan sure went west. And right now we have not made any plans to go anywhere... (our last trip was Bali in 2019) well how can you in light of all of this ongoing drama? 

So July rolled around towards us and we usually have a "Clayfield Studio says G'Day USA" lunch around July 4. It covers my birthday (July 3) and also gives us a chance to drink American beer, eat ribs and hotdogs etc. And we also get a USA themed cake. Usually in the shape of the Stars and Stripes USA flag. Usually our token Yank, Monte Hubesch does the quality control and counts all the stars to be sure it is correct in every way. So should we do one this year?

What would John Wayne do? Hell yes, let's do this.

So off we toddle to order the custom cake... many $$$$, but worth it.

So you got to have a US Muscle car and flag on the day!

And then God starts to laugh again.....

The next Sunday after we place the order, I head out for a ride on Maxine and I end up at the wrong place and at the wrong time.

Bang! A lady in a Toyota hits me on a roundabout and I end up in hospital. Poor old Maxine is a write off and I come out with just a lot of thankfully relatively minor injuries. Still trying to sort my head out, I am terrified still when driving or riding. Working on that. Cannot go into too much detail as a third party case is pending. I rang Debra from the ambulance....

"Hi honey, guess where I am?"

"In a coffee shop drinking coffee?"

"Um.. I am in an ambulance"

"WTF? S*&(*) **&%$ *&^ etc etc. (Cannot write it here.)

The treatment I got from everybody, the coppers, the ambos, the nurses and Doctors at RBH was amazing and they were all very kind. Cannot say enough good things about them. My protective gear worked well and even the good Doctor commented on how much the jacket and pants had saved me. I did get gravel rashed on the arms and face though plus a good dose of whiplash.

I felt so very old when this was taken.

Deb takes care of me at home and I get to enjoy lots of (painful at first) physiotherapy for many months. And then there is the story of making an insurance claim. Bloody hard work. Eventually I get some cash from the insurer and order a new bike. And that is interesting too. First bike arrives ex south and is assembled. Seems to be short in height. Thankfully good friend Paul Hughes can interrogate the BMW Motorrad VIN code and yes.. the bike has lowered suspension. With very helpful input from Jason Anderson at the dealer, the bike is exchanged for the correct one. And I changed the plate from MAX20 back to MAX11. Superstitious am I. Just need to learn to get back on the big thing and ride it.

New bike R1250 GS Adventure. Maximus Obesus.

Slowly as the year gets towards the end I shoot some small jobs in the studio although I struggle lifting cameras, tripods and lighting gear. My right biceps appears to have been damaged in the prang.  Had to forfeit some big jobs as I was simply not up to them. But Debra's boutique is humming along well.

We mange a long weekend at Noosa but the roundabouts leading into the place terrify me after my accident. Deb is cool and calms me down. It was good to spend a day with our holiday friends Mark & Libby. Just like being on holidays with them again. 

And then...

Debra rings her elderly father every Sunday. A few weeks back she gets off the phone and tells me he seems much more confused than ever. Five days later he is diagnosed as having had a stroke. Debra jumps in the Calais and in heavy weather drives to Gympie. She sits by his bedside for three days as slowly the life force goes out of him. Right before Christmas too. 

Just when things were grim, God laughed again...

The afternoon Deb leaves we are promised heavy rain. So I go out to drain some water from the pool. The pool pump assembly explodes and showers me in water. Luckily another great mate Brian Wakefield lends me his submersible pump and all night long I go down and pump water out of the pool in torrential rain every hour.  On the Monday the thick end of $900 sees a new pump installed. It's only money.

The sun comes out, Debra returns and all is well as we cruise into Christmas. Then the solar system spits out another panel. That will be two panels and one inverter this year. Really green suff this Chinese PV junk. On the upside, still covered by the 20 year warranty. So there is that. And also I have managed to catchup with some old friends from the FCCQ from over 45 years ago. Geoff Frohlich Wayne and Lyn Porter, Peter Scott etc. And I find my half sister is still going and going well at 99! Catch up coming! All good stuff there, so I guess that is a bonus.

My late dad always said to me, "These things are sent to try us!"

And RB, wherever you are, ain't that the truth.

Happy New Year everybody.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Looking for Neville Pt 1.

So being the youngest of Ethel May's 5 boys has its many pluses and minuses too. The difference between us all spanned 23 years.. and two marriages. Neville was the eldest. And my earliest memory of him is my mother telling me that that Neville was coming up from Sale to visit us. I was about 3 at the time and I still remember Neville and Colleen coming to our home at Chermside and he gave me a toy US Army Jeep.

I was over the moon. Mum get him back more often!

Neville never talked much about his early years, even to his own family. One of his daughters regularly writes to me for more information about her father. (Nev died in 2006) So trying to peel back the years to learn more about my eldest brother has become a sort of mission. This is part 1.

So Neville Lance Boland joined the RAAF, probably to get away from home I reckon and in the following years I found a picture of his 21st birthday cake. It had aeroplanes on it, naturally!

Most of my memories of Nev are hazy until he left the RAAF and came to work with Max at Max's Speedo Electric Service at 87 Logan Road, Woolloongabba in the early sixties. Eventually prior to discharge he was posted to Amberley and I have memories of catching the train to Ipswich with mother and Collen coming to pick us up to have lunch with them. Nev would dart home from the base and join us. He also used to send me B&W pictures of aeroplanes to Clayfield when I was at primary school. Now I never thought about it much at the time, but looking back he was a really good brother.

So, moving forward, during the Zombie Apocalypse I have been sorting  though boxes of family photographs and documents and I came across a letter from my mother to Nev telling him about the preparations for his 21st birthday bash at Hamilton Road Chermside. Off course, I was little more than a gleam in my father's eye then as it was more than two years before I was born.

So here is mother's letter and the cake.

Shot in Malta C1953

RAAF ID card

Check out Nev and his cool glasses.

Double click to enlarge.

What a swell party it must have been.

Aeroplanes, I see my mother's hands here.

There will be more to come, Nev had an amazing life in and after the RAAF.

Monday, 13 April 2020

On Black Friday, April 1990 a phone call changed my life forever.

Over Easter, 1958 my family moved from Hamilton  Road Chermside to our "new" home in Armagh St at Clayfield. A giant house that frankly terrified this nearly 5 year old. My father thought it would be a good idea for my mother to walk me around the block and see how perfectly nice it all was.

My former family home as the house was many years later in 2015

And so, a few weeks later on a sunny Saturday morning mother and I set out. Down at 100 Bayview Tce there was a man gardening and he had a hat on I remember. Mother introduced herself and explained we were new to the area. He introduced himself as Victor Brand and called a boy over to the gate. "This is my son Ken. Ken, say hello to Mrs Taylor and Mark"

And that was how I met Kenneth Robert Brand.

Now I didn't see much of him except at school the next year where he was in grade 3 and I in grade one. And then the year I turned 7, I was given a Cyclops scooter by my parents. And it had pump up tires which was a big deal back then. I was riding around the block and stopped to show Ken. He was amazed at the pneumatic tyres on the scooter. To this day I still remember him saying to his dad... "Look dad, Mark's scooter has pump up tyres."

So the years roll on, we both like taking pictures with plastic cameras now and then. We also like model railroads. Ken had a Ferris electric train set. And it was something. I ended up with a Triang model railway on a large table with a mountain range and a lake. We both used to waste hours playing with that too.

It was Ken who introduced me to chemistry sets and Bunsen burners. We both had "Kay" brand chemistry sets and I used to send my mother mad by taking over the gas stove in the kitchen at Clayfield to hook up the burner and stink her kitchen out with the experiments in the "Kay Recipe Book." Then there was physics. How far could a large bunger blow an empty pineapple tin into the air? Well we had to find out. So we let one go at the bottom of our front stairs.. up and up it went and then down and down until it crash landed on our roof with a hell of a bang. It rolled over the edge of the gutter and came to rest at our feet. At this point Ken wondered if 2 bungers would send it higher. Away we go.. and just after it launched, my father appeared to see what the hell is going on. Ken suddenly looked skywards and said.. "Mr  Taylor I would not stand there if I was you!" And just as dad got out of the way the can came down right where he had been standing. And we won't mention the home made gunpowder. To this day I am amazed that my father (and mother) took all of this so well.

A wonder we didn't blow ourselves up.

Then the new thing was steam engines. Ken was given a Mammod twin cylinder steam engine for his birthday. It was amazing. The base was drilled to take Mecanno and it wasn't long before Ken had built a Ferris wheel (designed by Mr Ferris don't you know) and had it turning with power supplied by the steam engine. Of course, the steam engine should always run on distilled water, so Ken knocked off about 15 litres of the stuff from Mrs Eldershaw's tanks next door. (Her grand daughter was simply stunning) He used a pyrex laboratory beaker to measure out the exact amount of water into the boiler each time he fired it up.

I still have that pyrex beaker. It is stored in the original box that the steam engine came in.

Alongside the steam engine itself. That steam engine is something I cherish to this day.

Mammod twin cylinder perfection.

From all of this the world turned and we were riding bicycles. Not just any bicycles. No these had 3 speed Sturmey Archer gears, front and back side pull brakes and a dynamo lighting set. We used to ride around and around underneath the Clayfield Bowling Alley car park as it was sort of dark.. and we could see our headlights shining on the ground. When we ventured further we often rode to the old airport for a milkshake and even to Luggage Point Sewerage Works. God only know why. They used to have this tall above ground open drain carrying the "waste" post processing into the mouth of the river. I remember all of the tidal bushes had toilet tissue all over them at low tide. Anyhow Ken decided to use a branch across the drain to cross to the other side. It very nearly ended in disaster. We were lucky to get home.

My Massey bike. Shot at Clayfield with my new TLR. 1967

The world turned some more... Ken had achieved 8 "A" standard in Grade 10 and then all "7" in Grade 12. My friend was smart; really smart. I realise now he was genetically gifted and I believe all really clever people are. Ken is driving and we terrorise the place in his mother's 1963 Morris Major Elite. One day out on Bunya Road when it was all dirt and farms were everywhere, Ken's enthusiastic driving caused an unplanned off road excursion in the Morris. Severe, unexpected oversteer can do that to you. The front of the Morris is ever so slightly embedded in a barbed wire fence. Eventually with me pushing and Ken driving we get it back on the road.

Ken on his 13th birthday, 5/11/64

Ken and Tammy 1963

Career planning... "What would you choose Mark, Engineering or Medicine?" Shit. All I ever wanted to do was become an auto electrician and work with my brothers. Anyhow he chose medicine because "It's as close as you can be to yourself." Grade 10 biology was a doddle when you can ask a first year med student to help you. The question that nobody else got right and enabled me to top the class in term 2 exams was... "Name 4 ways the human body loses heat?" I had no idea. Asked the Apprentice Doctor (my bother Neville's nick name for Ken) and it was obvious.

1. Respiration, 2. Perspiration, 3. Urination, 4. Defecation. (Yuk)

Nobody could get more than two. Yes.. aced it.

So more turns of the world and I am a first year apprentice auto electrician working with my 3 brothers. One night I am in my bedroom listening to the radio and the door opens. It's Ken. "Come and see my new car!". What a bloody ripper. Brand new Torana GTR in Daytona Bronze. I just cannot believe what a hot rod this thing is. In looks and grunt. Over the years, until some bastard stole it from UQ in 1976, we had some amazing adventures in that car. On new year's eve in 1970 I met the now late, Terry Lewis Jnr for the first time. We became great mates. He told me that this bird he went to school with at State High had a boyfriend who was a medical student and drove a Torana GTR. And what are the odds of it being the same person. Yes, it was Carol.

Daytona Bronz with black upholstery. Horn machine.

Ken meets Carol on a trip out west with a youth group and they become a couple right to the end. Lots of good times with them follow. Then early in 1972, Ken decides we should spend a week or so in Sydney. I am all of 18 going on 19 and so hit Max up for some holidays. What follows is a blur of fast driving, too much booze and some "interesting experiences" in Kings Cross. A side trip to Canberra and a whole lot more. We shared the driving and for most of that trip that little Torana sat on 80  - 90 MPH. Somewhere down the New England we are drag racing an E Type Jag, then later Ken had a go at a Monaro 350. We beat the Jag on the windy stuff but the Monaro driver had more horsepower and bigger balls. We let him go. As we drove into King's Cross, American Pie was playing on the car radio. Every time I hear that song, I am back in the GTR heading into King's Cross. A week of total excitement follows. Strip clubs, sex shops and the famous mock auctions. At one mock auction we were both turfed out by organised crime. Long story. At one sex shop, they were selling a pressure pack product. It was called "Dr Skinbax Miracle Horn Provoker" obviously a forerunner to viagra. Ken bought a tin because he was taken in by their money back guarantee. "If this product does not work for you, return the unused portion of the can and we will return the unused portion of your money." It was in fact just repackaged Airozone household air freshener.

Ken and Carol at Bramston Tce 1973

Dr Kenneth Robert Brand MB BS 1974

The Doc and his best girl.

Dr Robert Gow. (See below)

Then there was his stereo. Ken designed and built the speaker boxes himself, also designed with a slide rule the cross over networks and wound them with copper wire from Max's Speedo Electric Service. He built the cabinet to hold the Sansui AU555A Amp and also the Micro turntable. I got the job of screwing each of the 3 Peerless speakers into each speaker cabinet. Long before electric screw driver guns. Hard Yakka! While we were doing this, Robert Gow who lived across the street in Bayview Tce wandered over. He had decided to do medicine the following year. He was having trouble filling in his enrolment paper work for University. "Ken can you help me do this; I guess if I cannot fill in the paper work, I might have trouble doing the actual course." Ken had a laugh, assured Robert he would do well and become a good Doctor and then went back to Robert's place to help him enrol. I don't really remember seeing Robert since. But how did he get on at University?

"Dr. Robert Gow is a graduate of the University of Queensland and trained in paediatrics at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Brisbane and in cardiology at the Hospital for Sick Children (Sick Kids) in Toronto. After 3 years at the RCH in Melbourne, Dr. Gow returned to Toronto and was Director of the Arrhythmia Service at Sick Kids from 1989-1998 and Chief of Cardiology at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) in Ottawa from 1998 to 2005. Currently Dr. Gow oversees the general and inherited arrhythmia clinics and the device clinic at CHEO, as well as providing care in the Inherited Arrhythmia Clinic at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. His main interests are the management of children with inherited arrhythmias, and sudden death in the paediatric age group. He is a Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Ottawa"

Ken encouraged everybody! Always!

Now this hifi thing was loud and sounded so good. His folks were not keen on the noise so he built a room under his parent's house. The "Dungeon" he called it. A couple of couches, chairs, wild stereo system, a bar fridge and of course UV fluorescent tubes for effects. Many a wild night down there. One night I remember things were well and truly rocking, everybody well socially lubricated and some of the girls were dancing to Creedence Clear Water Revival's "Heard it through the grapevine". Ken's father suddenly appears at the door. He walked straight in, saw absolutely nothing and told Ken that "Trevor is on the phone for you." Then he turned, again saw absolutely nothing and walked out.

The mighty Sansui AU555A. About 4 weeks average pay back then.

We also went bushwalking. The Stinson wreck, Buchanan's Fortress, Running Creek Falls, Mt Barney. We just loved those border ranges.  Freezing in flimsy tents in the rain forest, what a buzz. Not forgetting a savage night on the turps with the lifesavers at Pt Lookout on Stradie. But that's for another day. Still cannot drink Captain Morgan Rum. These are from our second bush walking trip in December 1969.

Camping at the outrider's hut 1969. Mt Barney.

Checking the share market. 1969 Mt Barney

Lunch break walking up to the portals. Mt Barney 1969

Ken & the things you find rock hopping up Running Creek. 1970

Later in the year, the good Doctor in training decides it would be a good idea to replace the hydraulic lifters in the  GTR with solid ones so he could rev it higher. He does this with the skills of an A grade mechanic. The Torana now records its highest ever recorded speed with Terry Lewis Jnr on board as a witness. But the engine is really noisy now. So Ken reverses the operation. However... he has put the hydraulic lifters in a box and not marked where each one came from. A a result, the Torana is much quieter..... but now has some mechanical noise from the lifters not being in the original place and so mated to the break in wear on  the camshaft. Ken was smart, he soon knew the odds of getting them back in the right order (do the maths) so gave up.

Sometimes late at night I would be in bed and hear Ken drive down Bayview Tce and blow the airhorns on the Torana. This was a signal! A signal for me to get up, get dressed and get out the front. Usually a high speed trip to the Milky Way near Caboolture followed. World's best milkshakes at midnight while we discussed life on the drive each way. He was always trying to work out what made the human condition tick. I remember one night we even discussed competitiveness  at kindergarten. Get in first to get that big truck!

Of course in 1972, I get the company Escort 1300 to drive and Ken discovers trail bikes. We both had learned to ride on Wayne's Honda 90 in Kalinga Park. His first bike is a Suzuki Honcho. All of 80cc and a dual range gearbox. Easter Saturday we leave nice and early to go to Mt Cootha. Ken finds a dirt track near Channel 9 and gives the Suzi the beans. He is out of sight and I hear the ring a ding ding of a two stroke having its neck wrung and then the cash bang tinkle. Shortly after he reappears with the blinkers broken off and hanging by the wires. It didn't take long for Ken to realise he needed a "real" trail bike. Luckily race diver  Bruce Allsion's father has a DT2 Yamaha for sale. I drive Ken out to pick the bike up at Mt Gravatt. Once I rode that 250 for the first time.. I was in again to dirt bikes. Those 250 2 strokes were quick. Over the years our favourite place to ride was around the Lake Manchester area. Then state forest and entry to everybody was banned as it was water catchment. We loved it because we got the place to ourselves. It is now national Park.. walker and mountain bike only allowed in. The entrance was from the Mt Glorious Road. Farmers used this road to come up from the Fernvale side and get to Brisbane quickly. So at the locked gate was a series of padlocks in a row. The key to any one lock would open it. Fortunately, we had a Telecom padlock from a truck that had been left behind at MAX Instruments. It was even stamped Telecom. So one night we drove up there with bolt cutters, cut out one link of the chain and inserted our paddock into the padlock chain. Nobody ever removed it in our time as they all thought it was offical Telecom stuff. Ken rode quickly too, faster than me. "Come on Mark, ride faster, ride faster" he would say on our way home from each ride. As usual the days got away from us and the bikes had lousy headights.

Early 1973 and Ken and I attended the Brisbane Sporting Car Club navigators' course. Ken picked it up in a heartbeat. Me.. well not so much. A few weeks later The Datsun Car Club run an overnighter. I enter the Escort with Ken as navigator. A magic night follows as we speed through forests with the Lucas Flamethrowers picking out the route for us along the way. It all ends around 5:00 AM the next morning at Moores Motors at Tweed Heads. Embarrassingly for all the Datsuns entered, it seems we are the winners. Then a protest is entered by another team. (The cynic in me says that a non Datsun cannot win a Datsun event) We end up second place but first in the "Non Datsun" category. We both get a trophy. Mine is a silver cup. The only cup I have ever bloody well won. Still have it now in the kitchen cupboard.

Ken on his DT2 Yamaha Boxing Day 1973

And now it's Carol's turn on the bike.

The world turns some more, Ken and Carol marry in 1974 after a holiday on Fraser Island for Easter and I am a groomsman at the wedding. In 1976 I marry my first ex wife and Ken is my best man. Lots of good times follow. Ken found our first house, designed and helped me build a pergola and was always around. We gave up the bikes for a while but then got back into them.  Those really were salad days. Still young and every day both at work and home was an adventure. Most Sundays found Ken and I out riding while the two wives played squash. Then a great get together for a meal on a Sunday night while Ken marked on a map where we had been.

The Doc and me and our Land Rovers. Fraser, Easter 74

Not all Land Rover trips went well. In 1974 on the way to catch the ferry at Inskip Point, Ken's Land Rover had a fuel line melt and the engine caught on fire. Naturally.. none of us carried fire extinguishers. Luckily Doc David Hart leapt out and smothered the engine with wet beach sand. A bit of re-plumbing from the auxiliary tank hose and away we all went. On a "shake down" trip just before that, we were driving south on Teewah beach having been to see the Cherry Venture. A lot of sand had been washed away by the cyclone that caused the 74 floods in Brisbane. I was picking my way over the rocks.. I asked the front seat passenger what was in front of us as I was looking out the driver's window. And Beverly said, "Nothing." And she meant nothing! Which I thought meant, "You're right to go!" Poor old Land Rover fell into a hole. For former members of the FCCQ, note John Carnell "holding" the Land Rover up. A quick bit of winch work and we're out. Ken is seen standing in the background near the middle of the image.

This got my adrenalin flowing I can tell you.

The bridal party. L-R: Mark/Robyn/Dr Ken/Carol/Sally/Dr Hart

Ron & May Taylor at Ken & Carol's wedding.

Lake Manchester again. 1982

Ken  found an orange tree at Upper Kedron 1982

Feel the serenity. Climbing back up the range. 1982

Lake Manchester waiting for the billy to boil. Near water! 1981

Two old mates. Lake Manchester 1982

Doc Ken, the trusty navigator. Location unknown. 1982

Dame Edna and Jed Clampet at my 29th birthday

Operation Gooney Bird. 1979. "Come on Mark.. you'll love this."  "Um.. OK, yes alright Ken!" It was not long after my father had died and as usual Ken was keeping me cheerful So Jetset Tours had done a deal with Bush Pilot Airways to have this trip in an old DC3. You got on the plane at Eagle Farm on a Saturday and then the pilots tried to get to get this veteran aeroplane to fly down to the coast over Beaudesert on an inland track. We then turned north out over the sea and came back just over the beaches and finally with a loop over Brisbane. We sat on the port side with me near a window clutching one of Geoff Gay's Nikons for some pix. Before we left they took a group photo of us and mailed us a postage stamp sized print. This explains the poor quality of the scan. I was watching the oil leaking out of the radial as we flew along and bounced all over the sky. I told Ken of the oil leak.. his response, "I reckon they'll just have enough for our flight mate." The turbulence was really bad flying north over the Gold Coast, Ken spent most of the trip clutching his stomach and wondering if they had enough sick bags on board. (I had taken sea sick pills.. been caught out before) It really was a great experience. Something to look back on with many memories. My bother Neville late of the RAAF told me to only worry when the oil stopped leaking out. Bother Max also late RAAF had experienced a dead stick landing in a DC3 at Amberley and said we would have been fine. Yeah.. right!! Once we landed they asked us to hand in our boarding passes as they were having a draw when this was all over. First prize was a two week tour of North Queensland on this very plane. Ken asked the hostess if second prize was a three week tour? Another guy asked if it was compulsory to enter the competition. Got a plane full of laughs. So thanks Ken for pushing me to do this, never would have without you being in my life. What a day

Mark (back row 3rd from left and then Ken another 2 along. 1979

The DC3 no longer is in the air. Now at QANTAS Founders Museum Longreach.

Also in 1979, we went on a drive and had a barbecue lunch. From memory there were about 10 of us all up. Ken was reading the Sunday paper and commented that John Wayne had just been diagnosed with inoperable metastatic cancer. We all commented on how sad that was. What we didn't know was that my father would be dead from an as yet undiagnosed metastatic lung cancer in just 5 weeks. At this picnic Ken left the door of his VW Golf open. The Good Doctor was not happy to find a goat had wandered out of the bush and was happily eating his leather steering wheel cover.

That's our Ken on a picnic.
Note the can of beer to wash down the chocolate cake.

Later in 1979, Ken finds us a house. It's at Wavell Heights and only a couple of blocks from his house. "Mark this house is for private sale and Wavell Heights isn't too bad, I mean we live there." So 8 Wirega Street belongs to an old returned digger. I negotiate $500 off and we do a hand shake for $28,000. The old bloke said.. "Son, you've bought yourself a house." He had paid $1400 for it in 1949. He couldn't believe it had gone up 20 times in value since then. In fact he still owed $75 on his War Service loan. We sold it for $56,000 some 5 years later. Had I had of known what was to befall me in less than two months time when we sold it, I would have kept it and sent the ex packing. But the 5 years we were there were by and large magic fun times. Lots of dinner parties and summer barbecues on Saturday nights with those close to us... and a Honda in the shed in the back yard. High tide and green grass indeed. Saw a lot of Ken.. often he would drop in for a coffee or I would head up the hill to his place. We both liked Scotch whiskey and always had a glass or three when we got together on an evening. I particularly remember drinking fine whiskey at Ken's home at Wavell Heights after his father's funeral in 1980. A warm discussion over the vagaries of life. Once when I having some issues sorting out some work related problems at the office, I told him on the phone I needed a script for the Elixir of Life. That night I found a real script from the good Doctor in my letter box for "500ml Elixir of Life. Take as required".

Lounge area Wavell Heights

When Holden released the Commodore Ken was over the moon. Zupps loaned him a V8 SLE. He brought it over to Alderley to show me. God it was nice. But he held back and did buy one later, but just a base model and I don't think he was ever really happy with it. No power steering and I thought he may have been looking to recapture the magic of his GTR. It had a vacuum gauge next to the speedometer. I was on business in Melbourne at VDO so picked him up the OEM VDO tachometer while I was there. $36 from memory. We took the Commodore over to MAX Instruments on a Saturday afternoon and pulled out the instrument cluster and fitted the tachometer into the dash. Then he understood just how fast that 202 didn't rev. Heavy steering and a faulty clutch not far out of warranty sealed the car's fate. This is the only picture I can find of that car, a winter's picnic in Toowoomba.

Poor picture, but the only one.

1982 rolls around and Ken finds a new car to buy in the Wheels magazine. A Mitsubishi Starion Turbo. And for its day it was a quick car, before the change to no lead petrol and much less performance. Many high speed trips in this car. And I used to borrow it for dates sometimes during the in-between years. This car had the fully functional Borat Pussy Magnet in it.

The Doc and his rocket. Some days were diamonds.. 1982

Out to a BYO for dinner. 1983

Happy Days in 1983

The GP and his receptionist relaxing at home. 1984

Then the rain started down in my life with no warning in late 1984 and I was  looking down the throat of a divorce. Without going into details, I divorced my now ex as soon as our 12 month separation was up in 1985 as she had taken off with a work mate. Ken was shocked at my formally severing the ties at exactly 12 months. But I said, she is LMF and I am not some person's second prize. Time to build a new life.. somehow. And Ken and Carol (and a lot of other great friends) supported me through all those rainy days. They were truly family to me.

My surprise 33rd. Meryl, Mark, Geoff, Suzy, Ken and Carol 1986

Ken and Geoff Gay with Ken's Rocky at Mt Mee Forest.

Ken in Chris Osborn's studio 1985. A great Sunday!

Carol from the same session.

Of course, the elephant in the room always was Ken's health. Ken sadly had cystic fibrosis. And he fought it with every ounce of his being. Some days he was sicker than the patients who attended his clinic at Sandgate. But he would get knocked down by an infection, spend some time in hospital and then bounce back.

But through all of this he managed to build a holiday home on Moreton Island and spend many happy weekends there. It was also around this time he wanted to learn to fly an ultra light aircraft, but the then DCA would not let him train because of his CF. He was bitterly disappointed.

The solar and gas powered home on Moreton.

It was through Ken that I met Don and Ann Anning. Wonderful friends and so generous to this day. Put me up in the UK a couple of times and like Ken and Carol accepted Debra when she came into my life in 1987 and embraced her. That was comforting for me and all part of my healing and recovery. In fact the two families went to Paris for a week in 2000. It was a magic week indeed. And here are some of Don and Ann's pix.

Don's Fiat and Ken's GTR at the Texas Caves

Ken inside one of the caves at Texas.

Captain Don, Luke, Paul and Ken for the maiden flight at Rosewood

So eventually as Ken's disease progressed his health started to really fail and he had to give up his last beloved trail bike. His means to an end in exploring the countryside. Don ended up with it on his property.

Debra, Christina, Carol and Ken. Summer's night meal in the studio 1988

In 1989 Ken was in and out of hospital a lot, he had given up his medical practice and had just built a new home for himself and Carol at Aspley. Boxing Day 1989 a large group celebrated a post XMAS event on the verandahs of this beautiful home.

Ken was obviously not well. So my camera stayed in the car. No pictures of Ken that day.

We all go back to work in the New Year and Ken is in hospital yet again. Don calls into MAX Instruments one day, so he and I go up to the RBH to see our mate Ken. He tells us he is feeling better and might soon be going home.

And he does in fact go home.

By this time he is on oxygen at home and not doing much at all. He rings and leaves messages on my home answering machine. "No photos today thanks!" So I call him back for a chat. Clearly he is very unwell.

And then the week leading into Easter 1990, 30 years ago, he is back in hospital and is not well at all. Debra pops into see him on the Thursday night. I collect her from RBH... she tells me straight. "Ken is so sick I don't think he will be coming out."

I put it out of my mind, Ken always comes home.


Good Friday; Black Friday, April 13, 1990.

At 6: 45 AM the phone rings.

I answer it in the bedroom. (Funny how you remember the details)

"Hi, It's Mark!"

"Mark, it's Beverly Brand here. (Ken's sister) We just lost Ken at 6: 30 this morning"

For the first time I am speechless. This cannot be right... Ken always comes home. Always!

At his funeral, Beverly comes over to me and we hug. She says, "We're just going to have to learn to get along without him somehow." Carol is devastated as you would expect. Debra and I are trying to keep it together. I am his best mate and I am supposed to be strong, not a hope.

The funeral service was a warm celebration of this young Doctor's life. David Mitchell, his brother in law delivered the eulogy. And I was fine.. well sort of, right up until they wheeled the coffin out of the church. As I watched it being wheeled past me, the tears fell like rain from from my eyes. Debra took me outside and comforted me; even my ex wife seemed concerned for me. But we didn't speak.

And from that day onwards, my life has never been quite the same. Ken had been on almost every adventure with me. When I joined the Escort Car Club (later the FCCQ) in 1972, Ken came along to the functions. Like me he had gone to school with fellow member Peter Scott. The club members warmed to his incredible personality, his humour and compassion. He and Carol came to lots of club parties and dinner dances. The fact that he drove a GTR Torana didn't matter. They were all good people.

And in turn I had shared in most of his adventures. Bush walking, trail bikes, the speed boats and the big launch too. Sitting around the wood fired kitchen in Ken and Carol's first house at Coorparoo on winters nights. Drinking coffee and making pineapple fritters to eat. The fancy dress birthday party for Carol where another Doctor turned up at the door dressed in white and with a white hood over his head. In his hands a flaming cross, KK style. (Ross you looked great mate!) The cop across the road rang his work mates to do a drive by. The old Kombi van Ken bought to convert into a camper in early 1970.  It caught on fire on his front lawn while we were inside having lunch one Saturday. Mrs Whitehouse next door rang him to tell him and we went out to find the ammeter wiring had shorted out. Lucky the first year apprentice auto sparky knew how to simply remove it all. Fitting the air horns to the Torana, the driving lights and the tow bar plug. All good fun. Ken was always dreaming up new places to go and new things to do. Like crossing every river crossing over the creeks that would be flooded by Wivenhoe Dam when it was finished. It never ended.. until now.

But much more than that amazing friendship we had for over 30 years, was his ability to be a stabilising force in my life. The voice of reason that toned down my sometimes  "ambition exceeds talent" ways. Always encouraged me to do better, reach for the higher things and always supported me on the rainy days (like when my father was dying of cancer) and helped me celebrate the many sunny ones too. If I did something he thought was crazy, he would admonish me and his standard line was, "Mark, have you taken leave of your senses?" He was wickedly funny, had a twinkle in his eye and sometimes played up like a second hand lawn mower. We were indeed each other's best mates.

To say that I miss him is a huge understatement. Often when confronted by a big decision I still ask myself, "What would Ken do?" I just wish I could hear his answers to me now as I sort out our strained business finances in the age of COVID-19. Ken always knew what to do.

In November of that year, 1990, a small group including me, Don and Ann and another, accompanied Carol to a place we used to ride the bikes. Back then it was a dirt road down the Western side of Mt Glorious, now a smooth bitumen connection road. We knew it as Northbrook Creek Road, it was originally pointed out to me by Les Flood at TJM. "Just look for the wild tobacco plants at the turn off." And we did just that on our Hondas years before, flying down that road and back up again at some speed.  But now we gathered there on a sunny morning and walked down from the bridge and along the banks of Northbrook Creek. Here we scattered Ken's ashes. Although it was a sad moment for us all, especially so for Carol, this really was Ken's happy place on his trail bike being out there. Eventually we turned to leave and Ann suggested we all collect a river stone each. This way, every time we would look at that stone, we would think of our friend Ken.

Kenneth Robert Brand MB BS, an exceptionally talented Doctor and an even better friend. Friends like Ken only come along once in a lifetime. He packed a lot of living into those years in his life.

When trail riding he only had 2 rules.

Rule 1. You must always have your lunch by water.

Rule 2. You can never turn your bike for home until you see what's around the next corner. (It made for a lot of late endings.)

On the way back home that day, I had this song playing on the  Silhouette's stereo. We had both seen Easy Rider together in 1970 at the Eldorado at Indooroopilly and he loved this song from the movie so much when I played the LP soundtrack at Clayfield

Flow river flow.. take care of Ken.

So thirty years ago today and as my dad used to say, life moves on for all of us.

Yes my life has moved on, but it has never been the same for me since that phone call 30 years ago today. I very rarely drink whiskey now; my whiskey mate has gone you see.

Post Script: Ken had an incredible mind trapped in a frail diseased body. His genuine compassion and gentle bedside manner endeared him to his patients at Sandgate. Some of them cried in the street at hearing of his passing. His fellow mates from the Class of 74 told me he was a brilliant diagnostician; again that incredible mind. From dressing a wound on my foot when I was 13 and had stood on some broken glass at Kalinga Park, to helping me with my father as he lay dying of cancer some 13 years later, Ken was an amazing Doctor and a very special friend. For those of us fortunate enough to have known him, our lives are far, far better for having his friendship visited upon us. As a Doctor he must have known what lay ahead for him as he aged, and so he packed about 3 lifetimes into his short 38 years. I often ride along roads we used to haunt on our trail bikes way back then and wonder if he is up there somewhere looking down and laughing at me.

"Come on Mark, ride faster, ride faster."

A simple river stone, a symbol of a great mate sorely missed.