Fifty

 

chook

 

It’s important to begin by acknowledging my loved ones.

So, thanks to the following publicans: the late Peter “Puffa” Jansen of Kapunda’s Prince of Wales; the assorted landlords of England’s oldest boozer, located in St Albans’ scenic Verulamium Park the Ye Olde Fighting Cocks; and Carlton premiership ruckman, Percy Jones, enigmatic leviathan and mine host of Melbourne’s North Fitzroy Arms.

Good afternoon and welcome. Thanks for coming; especially those who’ve driven some distance, and those who’ve come by penny-farthing.

In 2002 I shared a podium at Ayers House with Dad for my sister Jill’s wedding to my brother-in-law Barry. It was a wonderful occasion. Undertaking my MC duties by including what my wife calls, “charming anecdotes,” I’d saved my best for last.

Yes, you’ve guessed, I was to talk about Jill’s childhood obsession with our backyard chooks. So, my finale read, “Every day when Jill was seven she’d come home from school, and without even coming inside to say hello to Mum, she’d head straight out the back, and drop her bag just by the hen house. Once inside she’d tie a length of string around the neck of the day’s favourite chook, and walk her around the backyard like a clucking, egg-laying hound.”

But prior to me delivering this conclusion Dad was to speak. It gave me great joy to introduce him, saying, “Here’s the father of the bride, my Dad.”

Dad took the stage, and with these words he began, “Every day when Jill was seven she’d come home from school, and without even coming inside to say hello to her Mum, she’d head straight out the back…”

In the words of a former Magarey Medallist, “I want to thank my parents, and especially Mum and Dad.” Thanks to my Mum and Dad for their support, encouragement and opportunities.

I acknowledge the Bureau of Meteorology for giving me the most frightening fifteen minutes of my life in 1988. Back then, you might recall, weather reports featured Kyancutta on the Eyre Peninsula. Beginning my career just up the road from Kyancutta at Wudinna Area School, I naturally assumed that Kyan, as it’s affectionately known, must be the bigger town, and as I passed through it for the first time in my VK Commodore, the boot containing my earthly possessions, I was able to count Kyancutta’s buildings. All of them. 1, 2, er, 3. Done. And one of these was an abandoned shop.

With Billy Joel warbling from the car speakers, I covered those ten kilometres in existential horror, terrified to think what my new hometown must be like. And then I saw the signpost: Wudinna, Population- 574. Whew.

One of my favourite stories was told to me at cricket there. Old mate Craig worked for ETSA, and early one Tuesday morning he was part of a crew working on a powerline in Elliston. Well-known identity Dick wobbled past, and Craig yelled, “Where you going Dick?”

Dick replied, “I’m going to the pub.” Dick liked a drink. A bit too much.

Craig offered, “Gee, it’s a bit early Dick. Nobody’ll be there.” To my endless joy Dick then explained, “No, the bloke what usually serves me, he’ll be there.”

I thank our astonishing boys Alex and Max. Already Alex skills I don’t have, and this is good. It’s the point, isn’t it? Alex has earned his first belt in karate and plays the guitar really well. He already knows Iron Man by Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath. During cricket season he showed a capacity for bowling leg spin which with his blonde hair might best be discouraged. He’s a great kid.

And Max. Max has an amazing capacity for language and wit. He recently said, “Mum, stop being ridiculous.” Mum replied, “You can’t even spell ridiculous, can you?” Max’s eyes sparkled. “Yes I can. M-U-M.” For his world he has an unquenchable curiosity, and I love this. These are two terrific, inspiring, fun boys.

And now I thank my beautiful wife, Kerry-ann, Kezza, Joey. We met early 1995 in Kimba. Like Singo on the punt at Randwick I was onto a winner. I was well positioned. I was twenty-eight and drove a Nissan Exa. With a turbo and a sunroof. In my home I had a CD tower!

But above this, I owned that most seductive accessory of the late twentieth century, the bread machine. With this exotic appliance one morning I made Kerry-ann breakfast. As she ate I asked, with probable over-confidence, “How’s your toast?” I then learned that she is one given, in the manner of many Queenslanders, to what is often called plain speak. She replied, “You’ve not spread the butter evenly, there’s too much vegemite, and the bread is stale.”

I thank her for our boys, and for sharing her life with me. I’m grateful for our adventures in England and Europe, but not Luton, our time in Singapore and Asia, and now, our lives just up the road, by the Old Gum Tree Park, with Alex and Max, and Buddy the dog. I love you.

Finally, I thank: Mick, Keef, Charlie and Bill; the Coopers family- Dr Tim, Max, Glenn, and the grand ancestor Thos; the Adelaide Crows premiership sides of ’97 and ’98; the cast and crew of The Big Lebowski, Apocalypse Now and The Notebook (What? I’ve been hacked! Scrap that last one.); DK Lillee; those at Pizza on Broadway for the large American; Bill Hunter; Frosty Lahood of Frosty Lahood Motors and his no root, no toot offer; everyone I played Mini-League with at the Kapunda Bombers; Bluto, Otter, Boon, Pinto, Flounder, D-Day and those of Delta Tau Chi House; PJ Harvey; the 1998 Group Three Canterbury Cup winner over 2000m Waikikamukau; for his Indianapolis Speech the Great Shark Hunter Quint (You know the thing about a shark, he’s got… lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye); Courtney Barnett; the Kimba Cricket Club; and of course you as you’ve a place in my heart.

A special acknowledgement to those who’ve spoken; it’s humbling and heartening. Thanks to my immediate and extended family for your love and guidance. Disappointingly, there are some dear friends who couldn’t be here today. They’re in some stunning holiday locations: Italy, Bali, Hawaii, and Womma. Enjoy your afternoon.

horse

Here’s the wonderful video my dear friends Claire and Trish made for me-

 

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