Hello from Caloundra, on the Sunshine Coast. If you’re seeing me read this, it means that Pauline Hanson and I have been kidnapped.
I remember when we were in Year 12 at Kapunda High. How could any of us forget? We’d the wonderful Mrs Schultz for English, and had to read the distinctly un- wonderful poetry of the British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, or GMH for short. Maybe it was this poet from Essex who set Trish on her particularly British-flavoured life journey. However, before he’d a chance to inflict his tortured verse upon us I often wished that a GMH-assembled vehicle had run over Hopkins.
As great as Mrs Schultz was, it was you Trish who helped me most in year 12 English. With your brutal intellect, passion for argument, and literary insight you showed me how to interrogate a text. In the depths of that soggy winter I was awestruck by your skill as we also read The Grapes of Wrath. I knew it well, but what a ridiculous title! Grapes of Wrath? Grapes, I remind you, make wine. If the book was vaguely accurate it’d be called The Grapes of Enormous Eternal Joy.
There were tutorials and Trish volunteered to chaperon us through the garden of symbolism. We were in expert hands, and were about to be symbolism-ed to within an inch of our proverbial. She took us through page after page, merrily dissecting the novelist’s exhaustive, and exhausting use of motif. Most impressively, she provided tremendous detail on the book’s famous recurring turtle that somehow represents the poor, evicted families. I know! A turtle! In this Trish enthused me and challenged me and, yes, she terrified me.
And if ever again I encounter a fictitious turtle signifying displaced Oklahoman farmers, I know who to phone.
As is often the case with the talented, Trish flirted with many university courses. She began a teaching degree with Claire and me and in my old Holden we’d travel together daily to and from Salisbury. With the girls imprisoned in my car I’d inflict all sorts of teenaged cruelty upon them courtesy of my music. I simply refused to have the radio on. No evil mastermind leaves things to choice, and I permitted only my curated set of cassettes, and as we hurtled through Smithfield along Main North Road, accompanied these dreadful songs with my unfathomably awful singing and, on special occasions, even more unfathomably horrid kazoo playing.
For this Trish, I unreservedly apologise.
Over the long decades Trish began multiple degrees; including education, arts, and finally, communications at Magill. She’d have excelled in any of these. But, in keeping with her life’s English theme I maintain that she should’ve pursued animal husbandry, through which she might have become a Mrs Herriot, living in North Yorkshire and happily inseminating grateful cows.
It’s a mark of her individuality that she owned a most British vehicle too. An MG? No. A Rolls Royce? Sadly, no. Our Trish, I tell you with some delight, drove a Hillman Imp. This duo was as distinctive as Mr Bean and his 1976 British Leyland Mini 1000. Of course we’d banter about this car and I’d tease her with my revolutionary wit, for example, calling her Imp a wimp. Ha-ha. But revenge was Trish’s for when I had my mid-life crisis twenty years early, and bought an obviously phallic sports-car, she labelled it, or possibly me with the abbreviated form of “Richard.” Game over. Trish wins.
An idea in this speech has been the decidedly British nature of Trish’s life. She is reminiscent of an “English rose” but unlike a Kate Moss, has expressed herself through the creative and performing arts as an accomplished writer, editor, visual artist, singer and actor. Of these achievements we’re all most proud.
I reckon she’d live well in Cambridge. I can see her discussing poetry mid-morning over camomile tea, before taking a trudge through the muddy fields of Grantchester. Then returning to her homely cottage to make Brett and Riley a supper of gluten-free scones.
Indeed, as evidence that my notion is not so silly she also worked for a while in a Geezer-styled boozer, the Norwood Hotel. Like a much-loved character from East-Enders I can see Trish smiling from behind the bar, and saying to the shuffling menfolk, “You orright darling? Can I get you a ‘alf?”
Dear Trish. You’re a faithful and precious friend who’s taught me much about people and our planet. As you know, when she laughs with you in that beautifully abandoned way she has, it is to be alive and loved. For this, and everything else, thank you, and happy birthday!
In concluding, I can assure you that I’m on the balcony of our holiday apartment, and at this very moment, as a tribute to you Trish, am Salsa dancing in a most fetching fashion with a turtle who goes by the name of Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Enjoy your afternoon.