Sunday, December 11, 2016

My awesome daughter

Disclosure: This is a biased account by a father about his awesome daughter.

Yesterday I missed seeing Jazzy’s annual gymnastic display. My alarm woke me up in time, but I arose in a fluey fogginess and I just couldn’t do it. I could feel that sense that if I stayed awake and forced myself through, I’d end up really sick and completely out of action for days. I knew how much it would mean to her for me to be there, but I just couldn’t. I collapsed back in the bed and slept deeply for another two hours. Disappointing all round. What can I say.

I did however make it to the afternoon session. I missed seeing the routine that she’d spent the last few months working on, but I did see something else. Quite a lot in fact about the amazing young woman that I have the privilege of calling my daughter.

Last January, Jazzy broke her arm. A piece of her elbow broke clean off, floating nearly a centimetre from where it was meant to be, like a little island separated out in the sea from the mainland. This was compounded by it not actually being diagnosed as broken for a good three months or so after the fact (a whole other story – thanks Warrandyte physio!). An operation ensued, followed by a long and slow rehabilitation. She has been unable to put any weight on it for almost a year now. Quite a significant impediment for somebody whose favourite time is spent swinging on gymnastics bars and flipping across the floor. Like many parents, I’m overly proud of my children. I love their successes. Parents tend to feel that their kids’ successes are in some way also theirs. I share this trait with those other parents. But my pride in Jazzy during this year, has stemmed not so much from her success, but from her fight in the face of adversity. Her persistence. Dedication. Courage. Without being able to use her arms at all, she has continued training twice a week for the entire year. For months she was able to do only repetitive leg strengthening work, while watching the other girls in her group flipping around all over the place. While this may be "only sport" and is not as significant as adversities that many others are experiencing, it showed a steely reserve inside that will stand her well when life throws difficulties her way. She had to forego the competitive part of the sport for the year, missing out on the two competition days, but going along in any case to support her team wholeheartedly. Generosity of spirit. Part of a team. Yesterday’s display was a culmination in a year of effort to get herself back in action. All the more disappointing to have missed it.

In the afternoon session that I did make it to, Jazzy’s stuff was all over. At least, she felt it was. But that’s not how it looked to me. There she was, leading the displays of other kids as one of the club coaches. Out the front, abounding in confidence, running the show. This year she’s become a fully qualified gymnastics coach and has been working on up to five days a week teaching kids of varying levels to do amazing things with their bodies. Helping their techniques and confidence to try and perform to their maximum abilities, while having fun at the same time. She’s become totally comfortable in her role as a teacher of young children, running classes, designing routines and also taking on the task of running gymnastics parties at the centre for the really little kids. Dedication to her craft.

Between the sessions yesterday, I saw what to me was the most telling of all. Jazzy kicking back jovially with the other coaches and the gym owners. Sharing jokes and conversation. A sixteen year old comfortable as herself in the company of adults with whom she has created her own relationships. Relationships that are visibly built on mutual respect. No longer a child. Clearly one of them. The people at her gymnastics club love her. They see in her those qualities that I do. They too recognise the enormous amount of dedication and effort that she puts in.

It’s quite amazing as a parent to see the developmental leaps that your offspring make as they forge their ways through life. From learning to talk. Learning to walk. Riding a bike. Finding themselves in some way or other and discovering what they like to do. We want the best for them. We know that stuff will go wrong from time to time, but we hope that on balance, things will mostly be bright. Somehow on turning sixteen this year, some kind of super-turbo overdrive switch seems to have been flicked for Jazzy. While acknowledging my undoubted bias, I feel that right now my daughter has awesomosity oozing out of every pore. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Farewell my beautiful friend

At my 21st

I met Bruce in 1982. 

A week before I met him, I was sitting in a 120 seat lecture theatre at RMIT, in first year civil engineering. The lecturer was writing relentlessly on the four panel blackboard, with all the students just copying down his notes verbatim, for the horrendously tedious two hour duration of the class. In the midst of this bored morass of people, I saw two guys who were joking around and laughing uproariously. They looked like they were having a ball, while everybody else looked like they wanted to gouge out their eyes with knitting needles. I made up my mind that next week during this class, I was going to be sitting next to those two guys. And so it was that I clocked Bruce. I made it happen the following lecture and the ensuing weeks’ classes for this subject involved games of pen car races and flick golf, the three of us oblivious to the ramblings of the lecturer, too busy in our own hilarity. And laughter was a common thread of our relationship for more than 30 years. We spent hours in the music room at RMIT listening to Monty Python and Cheech and Chong. Occasionally cutting the sessions short for a couple of Cheech and Chongs of our own. In fact classes seemed pretty secondary in those years of uni. We discovered that we had a radar like telepathy as partners in the card game 500 and were rarely beaten in the many hours spent in the RMIT coffee shop. I eventually worked out that engineering wasn’t for me and moved on into the IT world. Bruce on the other hand, seemed to have an aptitude for design and graduated as a civil engineer.

The dual premiership Moutofits
Around this time, Bruce discovered the didgeridoo. He’d had a fascination with it and one day just picked one up in a shop and could immediately get the right sound. I’d just started to play the guitar and Bruce wasn’t yet even able to circular breathe. But that didn’t stop us. With a group of other novice musicians with a similar lack of mastery over their instruments, we ambitiously decided to form The Band From Outofit. This was Bruce’s first musical ensemble and while our musicality may have been questionable, our enthusiasm was hearty. We regularly busked on Friday evenings in the Bourke Street mall and if we made enough money to finance a bit of a party that night, then it was considered a huge success. Eventually our band added a few more party people to our line-up, abandoned the musical venture altogether and morphed into a mixed indoor cricket team called The Band From Outofit Play Cricket or, because that wouldn’t fit on the scoresheet, The Moutofits. This was a much more successful endeavour and in our first two seasons we won back-to-back premierships. Bruce was our keeper, taking it on because nobody else would and handling it with aplomb. With the bat he came to be known in our team as Gibraltar. Solid as a rock. Completely reliable. And this pretty much epitomised Bruce to a tee. He was as solid and reliable a person as I’ve ever known. He embodied the qualities that I value highest in people. Respect. Loyalty. Strength of character. He loved a good argument. Generous of spirit. And laughter filled.

Jazzy's Australianisation Cermony
Hava Nagilah on didge & slide guitar
Having become sufficiently more competent on the didge over this time (he could even circular breathe by now), Bruce went on to play in the band Big Wide Sky and was on his way to a career in music. He played at our wedding accompanied by Jock on guitar, prompting my father to say that he thought it was the first time that Hava Nagilah had ever been played on the didgeridoo. Tori and I moved to the UK in 1995 and around that time Bruce began touring Europe as a do it all didgeridoo man. He was playing concerts, teaching people how to play, selling his finely crafted didges and even teaching others how to make their own. He came to visit us in England a couple of times (I even managed to rope him into helping us move house on one of those occasions) and I got to the Berlin Didge Festival twice, as well as to the legendary Swizzeridoo festival in the hills outside of Zurich. Amidst the partying that went on whenever we met up, I came also to learn how much of a celebrity Bruce was in the international didgeridoo scene. He was comfortable and highly respected among the didgeridoo legends such as Charlie McMahon, Alan Dargin and Mark Atkins. He had many fans and he featured in internationally produced didge books and magazines. He even had his own character in a French didgeridoo comic book story. Very importantly, Bruce was always a strong advocate by his actions and words for reconciliation with Indigenous Australia. He valued the culture that the didge came from and was always highly respectful. In turn he was respected highly by Indigenous didge players, a number of whom played instruments made by Bruce in international concerts. He spread the word on Indigenous issues and helped bring a better understanding and level of empathy of this important issue to those around him. This continued on more recently when he had a regular gig on a cruise ship between Australia and New Zealand, where he would play concerts and present to the audience on the instrument and Aboriginal culture.

Exchanging vows
One of many dinners
The one constant I haven’t mentioned so far in this thread is Lynne. I met Bruce in 1982 and they were already a couple. I had the honour of being a part of their bridal party in 1990 when they got married and gave a speech that day in front of many of the same people who are here today. Clearly that was a much happier time. I’d just started going out with Tori and pursuaded Bruce and Lynne into letting me bring her to the wedding. Bruce told me then that he could see that I was serious about this girl and said of course she can come. Over the years since, the four of us have spent many great times together. Shared many experiences and had a lot of fun. From the Glastonbury Festival in the UK, to running around as naked mud people at Confest. To just having dinner and lounging at each other’s houses. Over the last 11 months, Lynne has been Gibraltar. Solid as a rock for Bruce. Always by his side. Always filled with cheeriness and positivity even when things looked at their most bleak. Full of love. Never has the fulfilment of vows given on a wedding day been more absolute and completely delivered.

Glastonbury 1997
Bruce died on July 18th, which is my birthday. A few people have expressed to me sympathy that my “special day” was tarnished by such a sad event, but I actually look at it differently. While the day that his death occurred was undeniably devastating, going forward it means that I will always be thinking of Bruce on that day each year. I will always have a toast to your life mister and the great times that we shared together.

Vale Bruce Rogers. My beautiful friend.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

An enforced pause to the busy

Another day, another year, another flight. The long haul from Sydney to San Francisco. It’s like a salvation. Locked in to a seat for 15 hours without the ability to manically run around like an idiot trying to do a million things at once. No external access to anything. No ability to do any of the tasks on the extensive list of things to do. Life has been crazy. Busy. Busy. Busy. When I think of the Zen that Buddhists seem to aspire to, I feel that I couldn’t possibly be further from that if it was a conscious effort to try and be. Three full time jobs is the way that work feels. A day job, albeit of unknown potentially limited duration. But seemingly I’ve done a good job and they want me to continue on for another year. It may happen, or it may not. A software company that needs my attention and efforts to make it all work. An IT consultancy company that somehow has been going for over twenty years now. Most businesses fail and go broke in less than two years. I’ve grown a business that has bought me a house and provided for a nice lifestyle for over twenty years now. But it’s always about the next year. What does it hold? What will become of us? Will there be enough cash to support the life that our family is used to? And does it really matter if there isn’t? Young mouths to feed. A footy addiction to support. As well as a few other addictions. A boy who is not yet five to add to the teenagers in our midst. A beautiful wife with struggles of her own. This child rearing business is a major task in itself. So much that a parent gives of themselves to the child. Usually with no real acknowledgement back. I know well, because I am a non-acknowledging child myself. This life business is complicated. But then, perhaps I am overcomplicating what actually should be quite a simple task. Living life. On top of the work, I have these last three months been a full time student, having started a psychology degree. It has gone to the top of my list of important pursuits of my life. It took me nine years of the 80s to finally get a three year degree through the flurry of parties, but this one I feel in a hurry to achieve. It feels a worthwhile pursuit to move towards possessing a skill that will help me to help people. I work in a field currently where people mostly wear corporate masks. I look forward to a time where financial reward becomes less of a priority and I can start to be seeing people as part of my working life when they are being their true self. I’ll be able to hang up my own corporate mask at that time too perhaps. Somehow in this period of excessive busyness I’ve also become a maths teacher for Jazzy, spending two nights a week doing lessons with her, trying to help her navigate her way through year 12 maths, while she’s actually in year 10. She was going to throw it in. But now she’s gutsing it out. Putting in great effort. Showing the incredible fighting spirit that is truly at her core. I’m proud of her turnaround and happy that I’ve been able to contribute. Whatever will be. I feel a strong need to be actively involved in my children’s education. I guess that’s how I’ve ended up on both of their school councils, somehow being president of one of them. I feel strongly that my major role as a parent is to try and help prepare them as best I can to make their way in the world.

I don’t think that this level of busyness is particularly healthy. But what to do? Too many of the work related options are of unknown quantity. Any one of them could fall over into dust at any moment. So I grab them all. And it fills a great deal of my time. Is there enough time left for me? And for me and Tori? And for me, Tori and the kids?

My forest is my salvation. I live in a beautiful place. I get to walk along the river most days. Unless I get too consumed in the other.  Breathing in the heady smell of eucalypt. The clutter all washes away and resumes perspective. All the many blocks of my life feel to fall into place like a successful game of Tetris. Watching rosellas flitting around the trees. Laughing with the kookaburras. Searching for that elusive shy wallaby. Or even more evasive koala. But always the river. And the trees. Every day the path looks different. Changes in the weather. Different creatures to walk amongst. Sometimes a flurry of damsel flies. Occasionally an echidna. The promise of snakes, but so far, apart from the odd ones I come across that have met an unfortunate demise, they too remain elusive. At my favourite clearing, there is qi gong. Some meditation while taking in the rocky cliff across the river. Qi to my belly to nourish my soul. A perspective of how little of all of the other actually matters, though like many, I have a great propensity for building up its importance. These days, after the qi gong, on the walk back through the forest, I often call my good friend Bruce and send him my forest vibes. He has a battle of his own at the moment that he’s taking on admirably. He is in mortal combat with stuff going on within his own body. And he is going to win. There is no other choice. He is unsurprisingly resolute. Brave. Strong. My heart goes out to him. It always has. It always will. I love you Bruce. And I’m looking forward to us kicking back with a slim and looking at this period in the rearview mirror.

This life business. Many people do it tough. What is it that makes it so? It should be as simple as one foot in front of the other. Having shelter and food on the table. Everything else should be a bonus. What makes it so complicated?

How fantastic it was to get up north for a week and visit Paul and Linda and their wonderful crew. Who says you only have one soul mate? I have many. I feel fortunate of that. Kindred spirits. I’ve always felt that these guys are just like us, living a parallel existence. Beautiful people. Paul always reminds me how much I love playing music with somebody else, rather than hiding away in musical isolation. Playing guitar together drunkenly into the wee hours. Playing with complete sobriety and purpose through the next morning. Playing on my own in his presence. He makes me feel like a real musician. I guess I’ve been playing guitar for more than 30 years now. I suppose it’s time that I accept my level of competency. There’s no better emotional release for me than playing guitar. Perhaps excepting putting down a whole lot of rambling words on a page and spewing out my thoughts. That seems often to do the trick. If you’ve made it this far and actually read them, then you know what’s going on for me at this stage in my life. And if you have, I thank you. I know that I have people around me who care. And for that I am truly thankful. I might put my seat back now, take another sip of the surprisingly good Qantas economy class shiraz, listen to some music through my noise cancelling headphones and drift off to thoughts that don’t make it to the page. After all, there’s nothing else to do. Thankfully.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

52 musings of a 52 year old man

Today is my 52nd birthday. 52 years on the planet Earth. Now flying over a chunk of it, from the July warmth of Cairns to the frigid Melbourne winter, closing out a week of Port Douglas holiday leisure with Tori and the crew. Here are 52 musings of seeming randomness from a 52 year old man.

1.       I love holidays but am often not very good at them. I seem driven by a need for activity and stimulus. Being still doesn't come easily to me. Even when I am sitting stationary, my leg has to bounce around, my foot has to tap or my hands have to drum. I recall my Nana had a similar bouncing leg. I never planned on consciously emulating her. Just one day, I noticed that I did it too. I believe I was dubbed a fidgeter in the early school days. It seems to have stuck.
2.       I devoured many books in my youth. I read every night and I finished books quickly. But somewhere along the way the habit of nightly reading disappeared. Life got too busy. Other activities seemed to take priority. Now I only ever seem to have the state of mind to settle back and read a good book when I am on holiday. I finally steeled myself to reopen my soul to more stories of the holocaust, in the form of The Book Thief. "Did you enjoy it", both Jazz and Finn asked me, after I told them I'd completed it. I'm not sure that "enjoyed" is the correct adjective. Like any good book it consumed me. It took me on its emotional roller coaster, but much of the emotion was sadness. Identification with characters in a bleak and desperate situation. Reminders of my own family's fate at the hands of Nazi Germany. And reminders of my own childhood experiences of antisemitism.
3.       I see mid-winter Facebook photos of friends off skiing in picturesque winter wonderlands of pure white snow. I feel zero envy. Give me the warmth and palm tree fringed beaches of the tropics any day. Boardies, t-shirt and thongs over thermals, thick jacket and gloves. I used to love skiing, but if I never do again, that's fine by me. When the mercury drops in Melbourne, take me somewhere hot.
4.       The first winter we lived in England, we went skiing in the north of Italy. A beautiful little Alpine village called La Thuile. Tori and I, along with work colleague Kevin and his prim and proper wife Anne. She never seemed to warm to us. I think we were Aussie riff raff who were significantly beneath her in station. She scoffed at my attempts to learn some words and phrases of Italian. That is until she realised that I'd worked out how to make a dinner reservation and could ask waiters for various food stuffs and wine. "Kevin... my hands are cold, do you mind if we swap gloves"? "Kevin... my boiled egg isn't cooked properly, can I have yours and you can have mine"? She was some piece of work. Kevin was sickeningly compliant in his bid to keep her happy. The term high maintenance may have been initially coined for her. On our last night, while at dinner in a little local trattoria, Anne decided to order a Malibu and Pineapple as an aperitif. This was a tiny remote Italian village and the waiters spoke no English. Going with the "just say things slower in English and the morons will understand you" approach, Anne felt that she had finally communicated her drink order to the staff. After disappearing for some minutes out the back, the waiter reappeared and placed in front of her a small bowl containing two pineapple rings of the Golden Circle type variety. She didn't seem particularly soothed by our guffaws of uncontrolled laughter. Even Kevin laughed.
5.       I went to the cricket at Lords one day with Kevin. He had "rovers' passes" for a one day game between England and India. That means that you get into the ground but you have no seat. A strange concept really at an all-seated stadium. We went directly to the drinks area and Kevin purchased a bottle of french champagne on work expenses, which we quickly and enthusiastically demolished. Several other bottles followed and the conversations with other patrons became more animated. I recall telling a couple of straw boater wearing Yorkshiremen that the problem with the county system in English cricket was that there were too many teams. As unpalatable as it may appear, they needed to merge some of the counties together. For example, the white roses of their Yorkshire should be combined with the red roses of Lancashire to become a single team called the roses. They were apoplectic at the suggestion and wanted to tell me about the rivalry and historic civil wars fought. I'd have none of it though, being downright insistent that it was English cricket's only chance. Come in spinner! That day at the game, I didn't even see one ball get bowled. At play’s end I staggered home from the ground, chuckling to myself as I walked through Regents Park and past the zoo, back to Camden where we lived. One of the most enjoyable day's I've ever spent at the cricket.
6.       My once black locks are well on the path to grey. One day I’ll have a head of hair just like Albert Einstein. He is my hair mentor.
7.       Finn told me that one of the kids in his year at school is jewish and gets called a "dirty jew" by some of the other kids. I went through a similar thing in both the local primary school and then at Camberwell Church of England Grammar school in the 70s.I find it unbelievable that this stuff persists. What is it with the bigoted ignorance of people? I spent a lot of grade 5 with kids refusing to play with me at recess, supposedly because I was born a jew. I then had it again in the latter year of secondary school where I’d be ostracised and pushed around for the same reason. My sister Nat was friends with a German-Australian girl named Susan Baulch whose mother told her that she couldn't play with Nat anymore because she was a jew. Nat was in grade 2 and her racist teacher Mrs. Yuborka didn't see any problem with that. She could understand the mother's concern at her daughter associating with a dirty jew.
8.       Jazzy has just turned 15 and something extra seems to have clicked in her being. A new confidence and maturity seems to have embraced her overnight. She is already comfortable and confident in the world of adults. She will make a fine one herself. I have confidence that she’ll be great at whatever she decides to do.
9.       I don't understand how the majority of Australians can be so apathetic about the condition under which we are locking up people seeking refuge in our land of abundance. Many of whom are fleeing persecution in their own land, some who fear for their lives and those of their families. We are closing the door in the face of a desperate stranger. Moving them to a place far away from where the general public can see them. Locking out journalists. Refusing to comment on what happens there. Bringing in a law to prevent any medical staff or aid workers from talking publicly about conditions in the detention centres or any cases of child abuse, rape and neglect that they may have witnessed. To me it is the ultimate in human selfishness. Criminal neglect. It disgusts me to my very core.
10.   When Tori and I visited Munich, we paid a visit to the concentration camp at Dachau. It's so close to the suburbs of Munich that it seemed impossible that people in the town couldn't know that something very sinister was going on there. I couldn't help but look at the people of the older generation as they wandered nearby and wonder to myself what they were doing during the war. Did they paint antisemitic slogans on jewish owned shops? Were they happy that the dirty jews were rounded up and sent to the camp? Were they saddened by the situation but too fearful to say anything under that repressive regime? Were they compassionate people with enormous courage that helped jews somehow escape the clutches of the local authorities? Or were they part of the compliant mass for who it was largely out of sight and out of mind? We know what's happening but let's not think about the plight of the poor unfortunates. We have enough problems of our own. And anyway, they somehow brought it on themselves.
11.   Kimi has just turned four. He is a promising young specimen. Very bright, strong, funny, generous, cheeky, loving and a natural story teller. I wonder what this world holds in store for him.
12.   I have a psychic ability that I don't think many people have. Somehow people come into my thoughts as a precursor to me having contact with them almost imminently after a period of absence. I'm not sure if I feel the meeting before it happens, or if my thoughts somehow create the situation. But it is a regular occurrence and I know that it is true.
13.   Everywhere we go on holidays, Tori wants to live. As long as it's warm.
14.   The English language is strange. If luminous begets luminosity, then surely ludicrous is an abundance of ludicrosity. Jazzy once bet me that I couldn't use the word ludicrosity that afternoon in a conversation with complete strangers. Too easy.
15.   The family all really want us to get a dog and I am the only obstacle. We don't have the fencing situation at the moment and I tell them that if we do get a dog I'd like it to be a live dog for a bit longer than just the day that we get it. Tori wants one so badly that she tagged me in a facebook post of somebody trying to give their dog away to a good home. Unfortunately the post was a few weeks old. And the dog was based somewhere in Utah.
16.   While lying on the couch of our holiday apartment, reading a section of The Book Thief where the jewish character Max was writing his stories for Liesel, Jazzy came through and told me that she had been reading my blog stories from a few years back. She was a little embarrassed by it, prefacing it with the fact that she didn't want to seem like a stalker. I assured her that she was no stalker and that in fact it had all been written for her and her brothers. An idea passed to me by my friend Matthew that when I'm old and grey and they are trying to help me eat my soup, they can read some tales that show them that I lived a life of some adventure once and got up to a bit of mischief. That I'm not just the forgetful old fool they see in front of them. It seemed uncanny that she should come in and tell me of her readings just at that particular point in the novel. I lay back and allowed myself a feeling of dizzy joy and fulfillment.
17.   This holiday has been spent after ripping the kids out of school for the week. It should have been the first week back after the school holidays, but they got a bit of a family forced extension. This is not possible in countries such as England, Germany, France and so on. The authorities take a very dim view of kids missing school and if parents persist with this kind of behaviour, social services step in and in extreme (?) cases can take the children into foster care. It's not that bad in Australia but I hear murmurings that there is a wish to crack down on the practice. I could not give a shit about that. There is no possibility that the kids will learn more in a week or two at school than they will with Tori and I in some far flung place.
18.   Jazzy goes to a school where the principal is the “yes man”. Everything seems possible.
19.   Finn goes to a school where the principal is Dr. No. All ideas of empowering the students appear to get shut down.
20.   Finn's year 8 football team played in a competition against three other schools. Each side played each other once during the course of the day with the winner to progress to the next round. The losers were out. Finn's team played well and came through the day comfortably undefeated. A fine achievement. But instead of receiving recognition from the school for making it through, the boys were told that they would not be permitted to play. They would have to forfeit. Instead they would need to go along to an all-day anti-bullying workshop that had been organised for their year level. Instead of crowning an achievement, the school made it seem like it was nothing at all. There's student disempowerment for you in action right there.
21.   Jazzy's close friends are in a band. They were entered into the junior battle of the bands competition to be conducted in the city of Melbourne during school time. Jazzy asked if she could go along as the official photographer. The school said "of course". She experienced the day with her friends who won the competition. She took great photos that will be used for the band's publicity and appear in school publications. She has something real for her portfolio - both photographic and life.
22.   Finn is a boy of great ability. I hope that he comes to realise that and firmly believe in himself. Smart, compassionate and a fine physical specimen. He is a beautiful person.
23.   Some of my closest friends live in countries far away. Some I haven't seen in person for years but I always feel the closeness that I've shared with them. From England, to Spain, to the US, to Canada, to Japan, to Singapore, to Scotland, to Indonesia, to the North Pole (truthfully!) and beyond, I have friends dotted around. I expect that I will see all of them again, share a drink, a meal and laughter filled stories. I hope so. I love all my friends.
24.   52 seems old when I think of it from my youthful memories. I remember well my father's 50th birthday party. I was 20 at the time. Now I’m older than he was then, which feels quite strange. His 50th was a dress up party where he told each of his friend groups that the party had a different theme with all of them thinking that was the sole theme of the party. So a caveman couple arrived to be greeted by a pair in togas, just as a guy adorned in his wife’s nighty and hair curlers made his way past a couple in swimwear. Geoff and I worked the bar, serving up Dad’s lethal rum based punch with a serve one, drink one kind of approach. I have visions of my grandmother going up to a woman costumed as a flasher and asking her if she could have a look. The woman said “sure” and swung open her long raincoat to reveal a shapely body adorned in fancy lingerie. “Very nice” said my grandma. I had to agree, my desire to ogle counterbalanced with complete amusement. I recall seeing some of the peaches from the bottom of the punch bowl clustered around my bed the following morning, obviously deciding against residing in my stomach where they had once been. It was one of the best parties I’ve ever been to.
25.   I have a friend who, during one particular rant about the Israeli occupation of Palestine questioned what was so special about discrimination against the jews that it has its own name. It’s a fair question. Anti-semitism is no worse than discrimination against any other races or religions. Ask any black person in an ostensibly white country. Or muslim people living in christian nations given the current state of world affairs. Or any of the many other persecuted minorities that exist around the world. It all sucks. Sometimes it is so extreme that it forces people to get on to boats to flee the situation and look for a safer life somewhere else. Perhaps even in Australia.
26.   Who cares what term is or isn’t used, hatred of jews seems alive and well. Like all forms of racism, convenient reasons exist for the perpetrators, such as the Israel-Palestinian issue. As if Israel and the jews are the same thing. Interchangeable terms. Complete crap.
27.   I don’t believe any of the jewish religious doctrine. Just as I don’t believe any of the christian or islamic or hindu doctrine. They all seem to be made up stories to me.
28.   If people want to believe any of those stories, good luck to them. Who am I to say that they are wrong? Just don’t tell me that I have to believe any of them.
29.   The only thing that makes me identify with being jewish is hatred of jews or ridiculous beliefs perpetuated about jews. And I guess some kind of kinship with fellow jews. And Woody Allen films.
30.   When the World Trade Centre was blown up, I knew that some people would find a way to blame the jews. My mind truly boggles.
31.   I’ve reached an age where my friends are starting to have serious health ailments that they have to deal with, myself included. Last year I had my gallbladder ripped out after a few painful episodes. It seems that different parts of the body have different use by dates.
32.   Whilst still living at home with Mum and Dad, Nat and I decided to have a party one time while they were away (as we did a number of times). Right in the middle of putting the house into party mode on the day of the event, Mum happened to ring from America to see if everything was alright. She’d seen a film called Risky Business the night before and wanted to make sure we weren’t considering having any shenanigans involving a load of drunk strangers in her house while she was away. “Of course not Mum”, I told her. Then resumed moving the furniture and hiding all of dad’s grog. Around 120 people or so came along that night. My parties were legendary and even people I didn’t know knew about “Greg Swedosh parties”. Tori was one of them, there with a group of friends. I didn’t actually meet her for probably another three years after that night. Someone let our large, sometimes ferocious, german shepherd Caesar into the house. He seemed to chill out and have a good time, not phased at all by the mob and thankfully not biting anyone, which he sometimes did. I woke in mum and dad’s bed the next morning, alongside a beautiful friend, and lay there listening to half a dozen or so fellow partygoers who had crashed the night and were recounting tales from the night before. I think it was the funniest half hour’s eavesdropping I’ve ever had.
33.   Being as though my kids are probably reading this, here is a message for you Jasmine, Finley and Kimberley…. You are forbidden to ever have any parties in the house whilst mum and I are away. Translation: If you have a party while we are away, you had better make it look like there wasn’t one. No rubbish around the house. No extra stains on the carpet. All of the carpet looking freshly vacuumed. No unwashed glasses or chip bearing plates. No sign that anybody has slept in our bed. None of my alcohol missing. Nothing that looks like a party took place in or outside the house. Or THERE WILL BE HELL (and money for a cleaner) TO PAY!!!!!!
34.   My father was obsessive compulsive and knew exactly where every single thing was and should be. If somebody went to his office drawer and used a pen, he would notice if the pen was returned facing the wrong way. To have a party of 120 people of various altered states in his house, without him ever knowing, is a significant achievement. The only sign from the party was discovered a month later when Mum noticed the fine marble chess board that she had bought Dad some years earlier had been glued back together. It had been the only party casualty other than a few drunken young adults. I told her about the party. I knew she wouldn’t tell Dad. I knew also that he would never discover the chess board. Even though he and I played a lot of chess, that board ended up being ornamental. The pieces were impractical for playing. Who could tell which piece was the king and which the queen? It wasn’t a very good gift really I’m afraid mum. It was a nice thought though. My glue job was pretty decent. The board still looked good.
35.   I opened a rarely used kitchen cupboard about two months after the party and found a full unopened stubby of beer that somebody had stashed on the night.
36.   I read something recently that said that multiculturalism in Australia is dead. A failed experiment. What the fuck does that mean? Are we such insular ignorant fearful morons that we can’t live in harmony with people of different beliefs from somewhere else. Surely not.
37.   I can’t believe the fearmongering about islam in Australia and “their threat to our way of life”. To be honest, I don’t even understand how people can believe this kind of crap about an entire group of people. It seems ridiculous and pathetic to me.
38.   The people who say “why don’t the muslim community condemn the actions of islamic extremists” just aren’t listening. They are. But actually, why should they have to.
39.   I’d never heard of OCD when I was a kid, so didn’t realise that’s what my Dad had. It sort of struck me on a return trip from England with Tori and the kids whilst staying at mum’s and dad’s. Every night on the kitchen counter, two mugs were placed out with instant coffee and the appropriate number of artificial sweeteners in each. Just waiting for hot water in the morning. In front of each cup was a line of neatly placed pills comprising each of their morning medications and vitamins. The lines were so precise they could easily have been aligned by a ruler. Perhaps they were.
40.   I’ve reached that stage where my 13 year old son is as tall as I am. And almost as strong. And fitter. And faster. It’s an interesting milestone. A combination of celebrating his growth and mourning my decline. He still can’t quite take me at one-on-one in basketball. I expect I’ll only be able to say that for another 12 months at the most.
41.   I’m 52 and Kimi is 4. I’ll be going to parent teacher nights at the age of 66 when he’s in year 12. I’ll be older than some of the grandparents there.
42.   Tori and I have reached a stage recently where we can leave the kids alone to look after each other and head out for the night. I think that the freedom of this hasn’t fully dawned on us yet. We need to start taking more advantage and get a few more hot dates happening. Some regular one on one time out having fun with my beautiful wife.
43.   Mum and Dad started leaving Nat and I to look after each other when I was 10 and she was 8. Apart from the first night when Nat heard some strange sound on the roof and freaked us both out, we were fine.
44.   Jazzy and Finn have reached a stage where discussions take in topics such as sexual expectations, pornography, drug usage and alcohol. I’m open and honest, for good or for bad. I tell them my true life experiences. I hope that I can always have conversations with my children about the “difficult” topics.
45.   I don’t think recreational drugs are evil and are necessarily a path to ruination as the media would now have it. There are potentially some enlightening times to be had.
46.   I know that drug usage is fraught with dangers. I’ve had a couple of very close ones who have died from drug overdoses. 
47.   I hope that my kids will have enough strength of character and good enough judgement to know when to say yes and when to say no for everything that comes their way in life.
48.   The only jewish tradition now that lives on in our family is for pesach (the passover). We gather together for the opening night seder where mum prepares the symbolic plate and I read the service. And I do the best seder going around. Abridged to take in only the major highlights and complete with my paraphrasings of the word of god as he brings down plague upon plague on the Egyptians (and even their livestock) and the musings of Moses as he tries to lead that ragtag group of gold calf worshipping ingrates across the Red Sea and through the Sinai to the promised land. We feast on chopped liver, matzah, gefilte fish, charoset and chicken soup with kneidle before we even approach the main meal. Wine gets continually quaffed and then it’s all finished off with mum’s sensational pesach chocolate cake. In the old days, Mum would be up after a few wines dancing to the soundtrack of Hair, which always follows on from Fiddler On The Roof. I think our pesach has evolved into something quite unique. And it’s always fun. My performances as god are getting better and better with the passing of each year.
49.   My field of IT work is so specialized, that there are only two possible customers for me in Melbourne as a consultant in my preferred field. So I’ve started looking overseas more for work. In the last 8 months I’ve had my first consultancy contract in the US and also one in Indonesia. My sights are set on expanding this over the coming couple of years. Otherwise my existing work is unsustainable and I’ll have to work out something else to do.
50.   I don’t want to be a prawn fisherman. Though Tori would love for me to be one.
51.   I’m now one of those dads who repeats stories that the kids have already heard before. Some of them I know I’ve already passed across as pearls of parental wisdom, but wonder if they were old enough when I told them to be remembered now. So I run it by them again. And again. Others, I simply don’t remember that I’ve told them.
52.   I have probably written things in here that I’ve written before.