Wednesday, August 17, 2016

GROWING OLD DISGRACEFUULY



ALIVE BUT NOT KICKING.

Aging old fart.

What a bugger is growing old before you think it's time to.
Long gone are those heady days of no responsibility and political incorrectness, that have been replaced by the garbage that infects our planet today.
Long gone also is waking up after a heavy nights sleep on the front deck of the surf club at 6:30am and paddling either the surf ski or Malibu out the back for cleansing of ones body and soul in the sacred surf.
No more body surfing with all of my surf lifesaving companions and no more long drinking sessions at the Newport Arms or Mona Vale Pub consuming that magnificent amber fluid that prevented us from dehydrating.



Today, if one is fortunate to have 2 to 3 hours sleep, one awakes, usually with terrible cramps in either the legs or feet and injects the insulin, then swallows a bucket full of multi coloured tablets and stumbles off in the direction of the kitchen to prepare and devour a meal that wouldn't satisfy a dormouse. Then onto the lounge, turn on the gogglebox and fall asleep for at least the next 2 hours or so, missing what you wanted to watch in the first place.



It's not all bad news though, many years ago I was swept off my feet by a beautiful and cheeky brunette who very soon became the missus and it was because of her love and support that I have survived to this day. One bonus happened to be this well put together female enjoyed downing the odd noggin of slops as well as a good quality drop of either red or white vino. All was not lost.


When I left my beloved surf club I burnt too many bridges and lost touch with many people I simply should not have, whereas my good wife Gabi maintained a large circle of close friends who I was fortunate to meet during the early months of our relationship.

All of the relatives on my side of the family throughout the years have all achieved immortality and those who live on have moved to unknown regions and sadly are no longer part of my life. Gabi however has managed to keep in touch with and has remained a close knit member of her relloes. Once again, during those first months together I was introduced to many friends and family members, who in a short space of time welcomed me into their circle. Gabi's friends quickly became mine as well and what pleased me no end was how her family members accepted me as one of their own.

I still have crystal clear fond memories of those foodie night gatherings with good friends, particularly the Chinese  and Italian evenings. We would commence eating at 7pm and the last course would be served at around 11pm.




What has made life more than just bearable has been the many family gatherings that bring just about everyone together and are responsible for many a culinary masterpiece from not only the girls, but from some of the boys as well.  At almost every new excuse for a celebration, the bar seems to be raised higher when it comes to the catering.

I have always considered myself to be truly blessed to be a part of this lovely group of people.

They also breed like rabbits. At just about every gathering there appears to be either a new tiny girl or boy, or a well rounded fat female tummy.............




Gabi  (Birthday girl)
 
Matriarch Margaret and Batesy (Birthday boy)



 







Sarah and Renae (Kylie and Patrick)


Alexander (Carly and Ben)


Violet (Jasmine and Paul)

Carter (Sarah and Tia)


Annelise (Carly and Ben)

Speaking of well rounded fat female tummies......
 

"Bloody hell Sarah, don't sneeze"

 
 The above photos were taken at, what was for us a small family gathering to celebrate the 70th birthdays of Father Kevin Bates and my good wife Gabi. At Xmas we tend to block out the setting sun at Pirate Point north side of the Hunter River, Stockton, Newcastle.
 
 






Friday, April 10, 2015

THE PASSING OF A TRUE GENTLEMAN.



A tribute to the late Richie Benaud by Patrick and Trev.

Richie Benaud.   Oct. 6th 1930 - April 4th. 2015.
It's not often when someone well known to the masses departs this mortal coil, that one sheds the odd tear or two, but when the former Australian cricket captain and television commentator Richard (Richie) Benaud  passed on recentlya part of me died as well and I felt a sadness and a sense of loneliness that brought on a flood of tears.

Richie Benaud epitomised all that was good and wholesome about more than just sport. He had values that some would regard as old fashioned, the basics of which were honesty and fair play in all things.
Listening to his commentary throughout the decades, not once can I recall hearing anyone disagree with his opinions on any subject.
The cobwebs clouding my thoughts and views of the past began to thin out and were responsible for certain recollections.


There were so many of these thoughts speeding through my mind as my memory went into overdrive and those recollections of the past kept on occurring and reoccurring and I decided that out of respect for a great cricketer, a first class commentator and a wonderful human being, I needed to put in writing what effect this legend has had on me throughout my topsy turvy existence.


There was an item online about one of the Test matches being played in England. Before the days play commenced, the usual gathering of TV commentators were in the middle of the oval discussing the condition of the pitch and the weather predictions etc. when Richie appeared at the gate and proceeded to wander slowly towards the centre. A buzz went up around the ground and the mainly English crowd commenced to give him a standing ovation all the way to the pitch. He joined his colleagues in the centre and after a short while he began to return to the commentary position.
Once again the crowd applauded him all the way until he disappeared through the gate and into the crowd.
So much for his popularity.


The strongest and fondest memory was that of the 1960-61 West Indies tour of Australia, when the late and great Sir Frank Worrell and Richie combined to ensure nothing but attacking and entertaining cricket was played. This tour has gone down in history as the the most exciting and by far the best ever undertaken by any cricketing nation.
Australia may have won the series 2-1-1 plus 1 tied match, but the West Indian players won over the crowds. The first test was the tie and ended with Captain Richie and Frank Worrell embracing one another on the playing field. As I type they would be once again embracing each other far from this troubled planet of ours. 
You can bet your boots the two of them would be joined by the former Captain of England Tony Greig and many tall tales would be doing the rounds of whatever  is on the other side.
Richie and Sir Frank after the tied test match. Two fine gentlemen.

The fourth test had Australia requiring 461 runs to win, but with one session of play left, they were 9-207. Ken 'Slasher' Mackay and tailender Lindsay Kline somehow survived the onslaught of Wesley Hall's lightning bolts and the test was drawn. Mackay's chest looked like it had been belted with a giant meat tenderiser. He took many balls on the chest to avoid snicking a catch off the bat.

Before I had put pen to paper however, an email arrived on line from my son and heir Patrick, who it appeared had beaten me to the punch and had penned a warm and beautiful tribute to Richie .
I have never been one who has been short for words, but after reading his eulogy, it would have been impossible for me to have improved on what was said, in fact I would not have been able to produce anything so simple yet, at the same time, wonderful and meaningful so eloquently written in his email.

What follows is the email sent to Gabi and I from our only son Patrick.


Hi M and D,

Trev has a blog. I don't. However this morning after finding out Richie had died, I was a little sad. I wasn't sure why, so I penned the following and posted it on Facebook, which I'm not very active on anymore and don't have a sea of friends on. I don't intend on following Trev's lead or anything, but thought he might like to read, cause he's referenced in it multiple times. Enjoy.

Vale Richie Benaud.

(this will be long and self indulgent. No ones obliging you to read it)

I have a very pragmatic approach to death, whether it be family or celebrity. It happens. From the moment we are born, death is the single predictable outcome to ones future.

When any celebrity or public figure dies, at face value, I suspect most people would assume the impact would and should be insignificant compared to say, a family member and they're are probably right. Some might espouse that the impact of a celebrity death, on regular folk, should be zero.

However in my life, when it comes to Richie Benaud, I don't agree.

I was born in 1975.

My childhood years were concurrent with what is still arguably the most revolutionary period in Cricket's history, World Series Cricket.

Pyjama Cricket is born.

It also happened to coincide with our family's upgrade from Black and White to Colour television.

As a young boy, the sensory overload of transitioning to Colour TV (the significance of this is hard to explain to my kids, compared with modern technology available), coupled with the introduction to sport in my life and being taught that those Green and Gold Pyjamas are as important as those blokes with the Black and Orange jerseys you watched last Winter, left an indelible print on my psyche, that has not left me in almost 40 years.
Green and Gold pyjamas.


Men in Black and Orange jerseys.






The narrators of this life defining era, were my Dad and Richie Benaud.

Those who know me nowadays may find all this at odds with what appears to be my disinterest in all things sporting.

I don't hate sport in general, I simply no longer identify with my perception of what most popular sports have become....Business. Win at all costs. The very idea that, if it's not specifically barred from the rules, let's take that advantage until someone tells us not to. That's modern business ethics right there. Obscene as they are to me and as unsuited as I am to them, it's a dog eat dog world. If you don't take an opportunity because you feel bad, don't whinge when someone takes it from under your nose.

Life's hard. I get it.

However, those values have nothing in common with sportmanhip.

They also aren't consistent with the values I was taught and respected growing up. Don't take what's not yours. Ask. Be polite and respectful to old folk. Be polite and respectful to Police. Behave. (Again, those who know me nowadays may be scratching their heads, but I was a good little kid).

Sport was no different. "Here's the rules of the game son," and what would follow would be a set of rules that when broken, "you hand the ball back, to the other player here son," or to use the cricket reference, "even if the umpire doesn't hear it son, you pick up your bat and walk.

So, early on I got it. Sport was a metaphor and taught you a lot of the lessons you'd need to get through life.

Whilst my Dad taught me those values, Richie Benaud backed them up. He was the soundtrack of the reassurance, the confirmation. Kind of like those specific moments, when you go to your Grandparents for a second opinion, after your parents have given you advice you're not sure about (or more likely don't want to hear) and instead of doing what Grandparents often have the privilege to do, which is to be the good guy, "Here, have a bikkie." and make you feel good, they instead back your Parents 100% and you instantly realise, "Aha! this must be rock solid advice."












There's some great footage to be found of Richie making it very plain what he thought of Greg Chappel's decision to make his brother Trevor bowl underarm in 1981. http://youtu.be/mIL6KZox6Ao
That's how I feel. Still, every time we play New Zealand in ANYTHING, I still think, "Let them win, it's our fault."
Australia's day of shame.

As I grew up, I watched as more and more of my contemporaries "evolved" and the sport as a metaphor for life took a turn I didn't recognise. Sport instead, became a training ground for how to succeed in business. Learn to work together...to beat the snot out of the other team.

There's a couple of ironies here, the first being that I've never been good at any sports and this largely contributes to my confusion as to the differences between what values are taught in sport, to what values are on display and openly accepted in practice. As I write this, it probably directly relates to what I perceive as my last and current career failures, as I am still bewildered as to the disconnect between what I value in myself and my collegues, to what my various Managers have valued over the years. I clearly still don't get it.

The other irony being, that this era of Cricket I'm lauding from my childhood years was the beginnings of the harder sledging era I abhor. Yes, sledging existed way before this, however there's a distinct difference between creative and amusing sledging to rattle a batsman's concentration, to all the recent and very ridiculous posturing and staring down a bloke AFTER he's been bowled out and walking to the Pavilion.

From what I can tell, Richie agreed with me and as such, that means a little piece of the world I once believed in died today.

So today, I am sad.           (Me too son)

That is all.


An Indian tribute to Richie.

Australia's greatest Test Captain and wife Daphne.


Rest in peace and may God bless a true gentleman.



Monday, February 9, 2015

EVENTS NOT FORGOTTEN



TWO SUNDAYS YEARS APART.



Lunch at Far West Manly

It's not often that one gets the opportunity to be part of something special and when it does occur, the memories of what took place remain indefinitely and are treasured.
Two such special occasions occurred many years apart involving visitors to the beach from the same organisation.
My former boss and mentor, Avalon SLSC Life Member Reg Wood only recently sent for my perusal a large collection of stories and various anecdotes recalling special events that happened, some of which took place when T Model Fords were regarded as state of the art transport.
My fading memory brought to mind a very special and highly emotional event that I was truly grateful and honoured to be a part of sometime during the mid/late 1960's. 

Both Woody's tale and my story are published below and go to show that many hard bitten reprobates can shed the odd tear or two when caught up in the midst of something heartwarming and emotional.
A simple lesson can be learned from Woody's tale and that is, never judge a book by its cover.


A DAY TO REMEMBER   (by Reg Wood).


He was about eighteen years of age, a nice bloke, although a little slow. He was not a member of the surf club, but always joined in with us, not saving many lives, but merely joining us when we went for a swim and he was forever borrowing one of our surf skis. Being a bit slow he had trouble sitting on one of the racing skis. Actually, that's how he got his nickname, 'Drifty'. He caught a wave on one of the racing skis, the ski tipped over and we could not see him. We rushed over and found he had his feet caught in the footstraps and he could not get them out. A lesson learnt. The boys commented that he had looked like a piece of driftwood, hence the nickname 'Drifty'. I must add here, that in our day you were not fully accepted into a group unless you had a nickname.



'Drifty' heard of a surf ski for sale, so we went with him to check that he did not get ripped off. It was a large, heavy and wide ski, very stable which was ideal for him. Little did we know that the one we thought a little slow would come up with an idea that would bring so much happiness to a group of youngsters.


Sunday came, a beautiful day, a small surf with a long sandbank and it also brought some young visitors, about a dozen or so Far West youngsters. These young kids had never seen the ocean and/or surf and you can imagine them, all with brown arms and legs, white bodies, shrieking, jumping up and down, splashing one another, a sight once seen, never forgotten.
Then down came 'Drifty' with his newly acquired ski. He spoke to the youngsters chaperones about what he intended to do and got their approval, then in no time he had the rowdy bunch of kids all queued up. You can imagine them all shouting at once, their little faces writhed in smiles, pushing one another to be first for a ride on the ski.
He picked one up and sat him on the ski, then proceeded to push the craft with the youngster on it, out to around knee depth water. He then waited for a small wave to come and pushed the ski onto the wave and laid on it with the little one, riding it all the way to the beach.
"Me next, me next," up went the cry, jumping, clapping of hands, what a sight to see. In and out he went, every time with an excited, smiling, yelling child on board. His legs must have been aching, but he kept on until he had given all of them a ride, although there was more than one of them who sneaked in for a second go.



There must have been some pretty tired youngsters at the end of the day, but a day they would never forget. I would imagine that when they returned home and told about their day at the beach and their ride on the surf ski, the waves would grow bigger at each retelling and why not? Wouldn't you?

Some things you never forget, do you?


Reading Reg's little story became responsible for me recalling one the most fullfilling and happiest days of my sinful life. 
My recollections are as follows.................


During the mid/late 1960's, Avalon Surf Club President George Thompson formally requested that my good self, along with several other miscreants be present on the beach Sunday morning, preferably sober and/or not reeking of the previous night's liquid refershments.
It turned out that we were to be honoured with the presence of a large group of young children from the Far West Childrens home at Manly. President George had evidently planned a day out for these youngsters that they would never forget and it was to be all hands on deck to see that everything ran smoothly.

Several of us were delegated to begin digging a large hole in the sand slightly to the north of the clubhouse. We were told to pile high the sand around the holes perimeter creating a fortress. A sign was erected nearby informing beachgoers to stay clear of the area for their safety. Some heeded the warning, others didn't.



Sometime between 10 and 11am. the Far West bus arrives and at least 3 dozen highly excitable and shrieking children poured forth from it.   Not one of them had ever seen the ocean before and they could not contain their excitement and eagerness to splash around in the shallow and small  shorebreak. Our job was to supervise and protect if called upon to do so.




The Prez and others had prepared a mini carnival for these kiddies and the events got underway within 30 minutes of their arrival. Some of them were given caps to wear and many believed they were now fully fledged lifesavers.
There were beach flag races, beach sprints including a relay race, a tug 'o'war and a wading race through the shallows. Many of the kids were taken for rides on various surf skis and malibus, their laughter was deafening.
Nippers wading race at Caves Beach Newcastle Branch.






By 12:30 pm they were all exhausted and adjourned to the club's dance floor for lunch. There were copious quantities of various coloured drinks to wash down the food and turn a normally quiet child into a hyper active whirling dervish.

After lunch had settled I was introduced to an exceptionally pretty young supervising lass with smoky eyes, whose name I seem to recall was Tegan.





We were put in charge of the rowdy, highly excitable mob of kids and with the whole noisy shebang trailing behind, we set out for the Avalon Fire Brigade Station for a prearranged tour.
The station was on the western side of Barrenjoey Road, which even at quiet times was an extremely busy highway. On Sunday afternoons, forget it. 

My cute female supervisor must have thought me either very brave or stupid when I stood in the middle of this busy road and stopped the traffic both ways. She had the kids lined up in threes and holding hands, in preparation for the crossing. We made it to the other side without losing anyone and I began to realise how Moses must have felt when parting the Red Sea so the Hebrews could cross over to the other side.

The Firies were absolutely marvellous. They dressed some of the kids in their oversize uniforms, helmets that completely covered the kids faces were placed on tiny heads, Horns were honked, bells were rung and sirens sounded, some of the older ones got to slide down the fireman's pole while others clambered all over the engines.



Out the back there was a demonstration just how powerful those fire hoses were. The youngsters loved every minute of their visit and were in no mood to leave the station.

The only problem we all had was the fact that there were only so many hours in the day and there were many sad faces when it was time to return to the clubhouse. All good things have to end sometime so sadly, it was farewell to the Fire Brigade and back to the surf club.
Once again I was called upon to part the Red Sea and we reached the eastern side of Barrenjoey Road and arrived safely back at the clubhouse just in time for the Pillow Fight Competition. Young Tegan appeared very impressed with my performance as the leader of the pack and after thanking me, I was given a peck on the cheek for my efforts.

During the Pillow Fight Competition, many a fully trained and fully grown Avalon life saver was knocked off the wooden pole by those who were not much taller than knee high.
One of the Far West kiddies was George. He was not as quick or as sharp as his other companions, but not once throughout the day was he seen without a beaming smile on his face. The most wonderful thing was the way all and I mean all the other young folk looked after him, with some of the older ones taking him under their wing, so to speak. You should have seen the look on his face when he was declared winner of the Pillow Fight competition. Was it a set up?..........Of course it was.



Meanwhile back on the beach and taking up residence in the dirty great hole dug in the sand were several senior lifesavers including myself, wondering what was to happen next. The hole was around 3 metres square and 1.5 metres deep and despite further warnings there were some thrillseeking sunbakers who were content to remain where they were. Boy, were they in for a shock.
My female assistant was looking forward to joining us all in the hole, but when inside information regarding what was to occur became forthcoming, she reneged at the last minute.........wimp! 






President Thompson had gathered all the rowdy mob up on the front deck and announced that an evil bunch of pirates had landed on the beach and were about to launch an unprovoked attack on the clubhouse from their sandy fortress. Each kid was given as many bags of white starch that they could carry and were told to dip them in the provided buckets of water. On a given signal they ran down the trapdoor steps and charged the fortress. It resembled the battle scenes from the blockbuster movies Troy and/or The Lord of the Rings. Those in the hole, along with the clubhouse, the hole itself, parts of the beach and at least four or five dozen thrillseekers who refused to move away, disappeared completely under a huge cloud of swirling white powder. The battle raged for around 10 minutes and at the completion of hostilities, Avalon Beach resembled Antarctica minus the penguins.

The Big Bang.

Bullseye.
"You were warned to steer clear."
All the youngsters flopped around in the shorebreak along with everyone else who happened to be covered in starch until once again all was spic and span.
Most of the kids had brought a change of clothes and showered in the clubhouse, then changed into something dry. The ones that didn't were not upset at travelling home still damp with traces of starch still apparent. Many of us guys and the girls from our Ladies Auxilliary were full of praise for these youngsters as many had never been given the opportunities that we took for granted. Quite a few had experienced hardships completely unknown to us spoilt and lucky buggers, yet a day at the beach was something they would obviously remember and cherish the rest of their lives. It would have been around 5pm. when the supervisors rounded up all their charges and after the mandatory head count, all were aware it was day's end.

These supervisors said they had never experienced such a wonderful day and were truly affected by the reception they received from all and sundry. As for the kids, they all gave us hugs and kisses and there were many of us, including myself, who shed a tear when it came time to say goodbye. The highlight for me during these goodbyes came when I was singled out and praised by Tegan, who then, much to my surprise and delight, followed up by planting a sweet and juicy wet one full on the lips. Whoa! Before entering their bus the mob all lined up and a group photo was taken, then we were given three deafening cheers for the Avalon Surf Club and its members. Never got to see this group shot, but my little dark haired beauty presented me with one of herself, that stayed in my wallet up until years later, when my lovely newly acquired bride to be demanded to know, "Who the hell's this?" 
Newly acquired bride to be. 
The bus quickly filled to capacity and began to depart. As it was about to leave the carpark, we all began singing Auld Lang Syne. It turned left at the entrance to the carpark and proceeded up Barrenjoey Road and  disappeared from view. We all attended the club's Sunday drinks (ie: QY's) with the only topic of conversation being what had made this a Sunday never to be forgotten, the end result of which I am certain transformed us into becoming much more understanding, tolerant and most definitely was responsible for us all becoming better human beings.


Woody ended his tale by saying, 'Some things you never forget, do you?'

He's absolutely right you know.

                                                                  

ps:     I never heard from or got to see the beautiful Tegan ever again........sigh!                                                            

Most of the photographs were nicked from the Web, but accurately reveal what occurred all those years ago.


                                                                                                           





 

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