Time to get on the tear


Someone started a discussion about poetry in our book club yesterday, and I was quick to add to it.

I don’t read a lot of poetry. It’s not because I don’t like it, rather I’m pretty selective and hardly get around to it. Good poetry affects me quite powerfully though. It opens me up. It smooths out the jagged edges and eases me into a different way of thinking and feeling. I believe more after I’ve read good poetry, I’m both gentler and more sensitive. Poetry is a way for me to transcend present reality and to enter into infinite possibilities.

Last night it led me to look back on this blog. I’ve posted about poetry now and again and copied out individual poems. I wanted to return to them, not just to the poems themselves but to the person I was in those moments. I wanted to read of the context and state of mind.

For some reason I had a particular poem by Pablo Neruda in my head and figured it was about 10 years ago I wrote of it. I started a little over 11 years ago, from midway in 2007.

What happened is I got caught up reading of those times and entering into the mindset I had then. It was an eventful time for me. I had a busy social life plus I was falling in love.

I was surprised by how well I described it all. I found myself really liking the man I was then – clearly intelligent, confident, digressive but original, a little cheeky, very masculine. Naturally, I couldn’t help but compare the man I was then to the man I am today.

It’s a bit unfair really. None of the shit had hit the fan then. I was on a comfortable salary – about double what I’m currently earning – working at a job I really liked. I had great colleagues and I was both respected and admired. I had a fair whack of authority then, working either with the CFO or CEO, and was given my head to do whatever I thought needed doing. There were times then I think I was brilliant – brilliant in the sense that I wasn’t just competent, I was innovative and daring, and it all worked.

Because I had money as well as the inclination I had a busy active life. I knew a lot of women, and it seemed like a lot of women knew me. I had fun with that, but as I am now I was the loyal type. I would flirt, but because my desires were elsewhere mostly I let it go there (not quite always). I had every reason to be confident about the future, and indeed in years to come, I would flourish for a while.

I have to admit, I don’t think I like the man writing these words as much as I liked the man writing here 10 years ago.

I think the big difference is that there’s not nearly as much joy in me now as there was then. I don’t think I’m any harder than I was then – and I was pretty formidable – but the mix has changed. I carry the scars of battle now, and if I’m no harder then I’m less joyous. Unsurprisingly I’m come out of my ordeal grimmer than I was before, and perhaps warier.

It might be different if I had the same opportunities now as I did then – I’m sure it would change a lot. But then I have changed in that way.

Back then I was digressive and interesting, heading off on fascinating tangents. I don’t see those tangents so clearly now. Because I’ve been so focused on getting myself right my digressions have been personal. I’m often conscious even as I describe how I must do this or that how self-indulgent and whiny I’ve become.

I’m not whining now though. It’s good to go back and read because it reminds me of my essential self. It’s fine to make plans – and I think I’m on the right track – but let’s not forget to have fun.

Amid all the necessary changes I identified earlier this year was one dedicated to becoming more expansive and charming, as I once was. I’ve noticed a change in that regard over the last couple of months, and others have commented on it. I’m not as I was then, but there are recognisable aspects and generally, I’m much more open and spontaneous with my colleagues, and more so with some.

This is the thing: it doesn’t take much to change things. I’m still the same person I was then, just adjusted differently. I need some readjustment – though it’s not as simple as that.

I’ve got two sides of my soul. One is more intense and ascetic, disciplined and responsible. The other is more spontaneous and irresponsible, extroverted and extravagant. For many years I would alternate between the two, almost consciously – I would write about it. I’d go on the tear for a while partying hard, socialising here there and everywhere, flirting like there was no tomorrow, all very Rabelaisian. Gradually I would weary of that and eventually would retire to a more thoughtful and quiet life, enjoying the small things and reflecting on what it all meant.

For the last 6-7 years, I’ve been the ascetic. Life jolted into that situation and stuck me there. There’s been little opportunity and small excuse to cut loose. I won’t say it’s made H a dull boy, but it’s made him very controlled.

I had forgotten all about that. That other H, he’s a lot of fun. I’ll know things are good when I get back to being him.

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No small things


I went to the footy at the MCG with Cheeseboy on Saturday afternoon. We had a fine day sitting high up in the members stand watching an exciting game, and adjourning to the nearest bar for a quick pint before the game and at half time. The only downside was the result.

We caught the train back afterwards with it full of folk like us in their footy regalia returning home as we were. There were as usual a lot of families, generally fathers with their sons, though occasionally a complete family out for a day at the footy. It’s good to see and very familiar to me. I’ve been on trains like that a thousand times before and looked upon happy, smiling kids cavorting in the colours of their favourite football team. As a kid I don’t recall ever catching the train with my dad to the footy – we always drove – but later as a teenager I would be travelling solo among them.

Sitting behind us was an old man who opined on the game we had just attended. Like me he was an Essendon supporter. I didn’t set eyes on him, and presume he was old – somewhere north of 70 – by his voice and manner. Every so often I would listen in, finding little to disagree with. I imagined him a tall, spare, dignified man on the edge of austere. It was in his voice, which was assured and intelligent. I liked him. I respected him. In my imagination he had a lifetime behind him of barracking for the same club as me. He had paid his dues and along the way learned a thing or two about the game. As I got off the train at Hampton I thought, that’s me in 20 odd years.

Walking onto the platform at Hampton I felt a moment of unexpected emotion. That doesn’t happen to me much. I’m sensitive, but it leads more often to reflection, even contemplation. As you know, I think things out. Saturday I didn’t have time for that. Ahead of me was a trail of people having got out of the train ahead of us. It was a well-known scene. I cast eyes upon them then I felt a brief but intense mistiness. As I followed Cheeseboy it cleared and I began to wonder at it. It didn’t take long for me to realise that I had hit another long delayed milestone that day.

I used to go to the footy 18 games out of 22, and for near on 35 years, from when I was just a kid. By the time I encountered my difficulties I’d slowed some, but still probably managed 10 games a year, most of them at the MCG – my MCC membership was one of my most cherished possessions. Once my difficulties hit it slowed more. I couldn’t afford to go as much and my MCC membership lapsed, plus I was living a pretty unsettled life. I probably went to 2-3 games a year.

Now things have improved I’m not going to any more games really. A lot of it is that I still don’t have the spare cash, but much of it is now habit. I watch every game, but it’s from the comfort of my home.

In May this year I finally got my MCC membership reinstated after nearly 5 years dormancy. And this is the milestone, which I was oblivious of until I stepped onto the platform at Hampton railway station. Saturday was the first time in 5 years that I’d attended the footy as a MCC member. Watching the footy from the salubrious surrounds of the members was not the point – the point was that I had regained something I had lost, and thought lost permanently at different times. The milestone was that I had reclaimed one more small thing along the way to reclaiming something of the life I had lost and hope to regain.

It was one of those days Saturday. Getting off the train – all happening then – Cheeseboy invited me to have dinner with the family at a nearby restaurant. I visit them at home regularly, but am wary of intruding too much upon their time or hospitality. Not unusually I made my excuses at first, claiming I couldn’t afford it. Don’t worry, he said, we’ll shout you. Still feeling a little tender I agreed.

I sat with them and had dinner and what this means to me is hard to explain. I’m close to them and they have been great friends to me over a long period of time. I’m very grateful to them. These days it means much more because I don’t really have a family of my own. I’m familiar with the forms of family life because for many years I was well and truly immersed in it – family lunches, birthday celebrations, mothers day, barbecues, Christmas, and so on, my life was full of such occasions. As you do, I took it for granted. Then, with the death of my mother, all of that ended. If there was any doubt then the rupture with my sister terminated all bit the most random contact. Effectively I have been cold turkey on all forms of family contact for about 6 years.

I’m a resilient dude. It is what it is, I accept it. I don’t mope or feel sorry for myself. Still, sometimes I miss it, and certainly on the key dates. The Cheeses aren’t my family but I can feel something of that by proxy simply by sharing in some of their occasions. They’re very good like that, especially Mrs Cheese. I sit their feel it and remember and it’s very pleasant just to be amid it.

It was like that on Saturday night, which was really a low-key event. I felt humbled by it. Yesterday I sent them a message thanking them for sharing their life with me. It’s no small thing.

First steps


H is in a benevolent mood today. It’s been a productive week at work, and while work isn’t everything it keeps the embers aglow. I’m of the type that needs to achieve things to feel satisfaction, muddling through or ticking boxes or cruising on auto-pilot is not my thing. It’s a bonus if the things you achieve are of a particularly clever nature. That feeds the ego and justifies ambitious expectations.

I had a break-through with one of my projects yesterday which should make a big difference. It means I can probably wrap it up a lot quicker than anticipated. It was a leap of imagination that did it, enabled by finally having some obstacles removed from my path. Some way to go but on the right track.

Satisfying as that is, more satisfying were the first few steps towards building a greater engagement in the office.

It may surprise some, but this is something I’m pretty passionate about. Everyone deserves opportunity. Everyone deserves a chance at being their best self. Everyone should have access to a work environment that is safe, welcoming and empowering. Everyone is an individual, and everyone deserves to be recognised as such.

I get really sour sometimes in places like this were staff are either treated as children, or as drones. It comes down to poor leadership and management mostly, as I touched upon yesterday, but there are structural faults that allow for it as well.

I’m lucky because I have a strong sense of self and am naturally independent, I don’t fit into any moulds. Not everyone is as fortunate and it’s common for people to be squeezed into round holes, never to emerge. I just don’t believe in that. This is a human life! We should be free to find our own shape and speak our own words – and you know what, most organisations would benefit from it.

I’ve achieved a lot over my professional career, including much I would describe as clever and creative, and sometimes things much against expectation. All of that, as I said, is good for the ego. None of that factors in to what my most satisfying experience has been – taking a dysfunctional, underperforming team and turning them into a happy, driven and successful team of achievers. It sounds corny, but the pleasure I got from the pleasure of my guys then was like nothing I’ve experienced before. It’s a cliché, but the term heartwarming is very apt for the sensation I experienced back then – and now still, as I reflect upon it.

Managing a team of people is different challenge to creating an organisational environment in which people can thrive, but there are common elements.

About 10 years ago I worked in a place where the IT manager, a buffoon, was fired on the spot by an exasperated CEO who could take it no longer. Both the manager and his team had underperformed for ages and were disdained throughout the organisation. I was called into the office straight after, had explained what had just happened, then asked if I was willing to take the job on (as well as my current job).

Was I ever! I had watched on with dismay as the IT function had been ground down into a virtual irrelevancy. I had my own ideas of how it should operate and what could be done and so I was in like Flynn.

First thing I did was to undo some of the constraints. These were all IT professionals, everyone of them competent in their own right and willing to do more, but inhibited by a demeaning structure. I sat down with each and every one of them and spoke to them man to man to get an understanding of what they were feeling, why they got into IT initially, and what they wanted to do. I asked for their ideas as to what was wrong and what we could do to fix it.

I wanted them to be part of the solution. Nothing would work without their buy-in, but the cost of their investment was trust and recognition – these were pennies well spent and easy to give over.

I gave every one of them a responsibility. I made them accountable for something. That something was aligned to their skillset, their experience, their desires. One guy became responsible for infrastructure. Another was given application management. A third was told he was going to be the SharePoint guru and these were the big plans I wanted him to get started on. The younger guys were given helpdesk, but told they were responsible for the efficient management of it, and given responsibilities shadowing the other guys. Each person walked out of that meeting knowing what was expected of them, and empowered by the knowledge that they would be exercising their expertise productively. They were delighted every one of them.

My role in this was to facilitate. I set agendas, I defined strategies, and I reached out to the business, but the guys were involved. I was by no means a technical IT expert and made no claims to be – I made it clear that I was relying on them, but they had my full trust.

Trust is a mighty powerful thing. I would support them every step of the way, but in return expected them to fulfil the trust placed in them. It’s rare that people don’t, but unusual for people – average managers – to understand. Trust is a gift given by me to you, and creates a hopeful obligation in the recipient. Few want to disappoint that.

I always the best sort of authority is no show of authority at all. It’s the mistake that many junior or managers make, feeling the need to demonstrate they are the boss. True authority comes with a sense of humility – in your hands are the lives of these people – but for many managers those people are playthings.

I never worried about being the boss. I knew they trusted and respected me. We got on well, could share a joke, and I took them all out for drinks soon after starting, but no-one was in any doubt that I was the man – and that’s how they wanted it. I was hard, but fair, but I took the pressure off them too and gave them space to do what they did best. In no time we turned the department around. By the time I left them morale was sky-high, performance had hit the roof, we had engaged with and earned the trust of the business, and had a bunch of exciting projects on the go.

For me I appreciated how much people want to be themselves. If that’s all you offer then people will be drones and the quality of their work will reflect that – but if you recognise them as individuals, each with unique qualities, and acknowledge them, then there’s no limit to what they can achieve. This encapsulates my philosophy on engagement, and indeed leadership, and explains why I’m so passionate about it.

This is what I want to introduce here. It’s a tall order but you have to start somewhere. This week I wrote and posted something to the constituents detailing what we’re about as an engagement committee and what we hoped to achieve. The possibilities thrill me.

Independent spirits


On a cold, wintry day last week I headed out for lunch with a friend at Hawkr. I went by it at first, conditioned to go to the market when I head off in that direction. I backtracked and soon enough was enjoying a very nice lunch.

Nothing remarkable in this at all, except in the overcast, cool surrounds of that Melbourne winter’s day my mind was unaccountably cast back about 30 years to a time and place very different.

It’s fascinating to wonder what triggers such unlikely memories. Here I was in the middle of winter in Melbourne and my memory was of a summer’s day in Sydney. Specifically I recalled a time when I trained to become a cocktail bar-tender. I must have been about 21 at the time. There were a bunch of us in the class, maybe about eight, and I was one of the eldest there.

This was in the heart of King’s Cross, and I can remember still the name of the course – Alex Beaumont something, something, but not the name of the instructor.

I was living with my aunt at the time in Watson’s Bay, and as it turned out the instructor lived in Watson’s Bay also. He was one of those very cool characters who you imagined had lived an interesting, if not exotic life. He was in his mid-forties I guess, fit and with a handsome, well lived in face with – in retrospect – a Humphrey Bogart vibe. He was a professional cocktail bartender who had plied his trade all over the world and doubtless had a great time doing it. He was a level-headed character studious in teaching us the tricks of his trade. I remember him telling off a couple in the class who were goofing off, and in spite of the difference in our age he seemed to connect with me. Perhaps I seemed the closest in spirit to him.

One night after the class had ended we went back to his place together. I was flattered to be asked. I remember he lived further along towards South Head, past Doyles, in one of the cute cottages that overlooked the beach. He had a wife or girlfriend who wasn’t there, but who he had spoken of often. She seemed his long-time partner in crime, a fellow traveller close in spirit. He called her always by a nickname, Flea, or something like that.

Though she wasn’t there I felt her spirit. I was young and adventurous and my imagination was vivid and I was curious about such a woman thinking that she was probably the sort I would like to know. But then he was of a type I would happily emulate as well, the free-spirited individual who lived for experience.

We sat on his leafy patio in the sunshine sipping on gin and tonics while he told me his stories (now forgotten), and I attempted to shape into words my expectations of the world ahead of me.

And that was it, that was the memory that came to me that day, and has every day since. Why is that?

Lot of water under the bridge since and much I might have hoped for that day will have come to pass. I’m a long way on from that young man, though he is still recognisably within me. I wonder if the appeal of the independent spirit has come to resonate in me and trigger this memory – it’s always been there, sometimes nearer, sometimes more distant, but never absent.

Here I am


Sometimes when I tell my story I’m actually surprised how many things seemed to happen at once, and I wonder occasionally how I survived it. The thing is you don’t know the next thing is coming otherwise you might start shittin’ your pants again. When it does come there’s no time for that and you just deal with it. And so it goes – you keep going doing your best to survive and riding the blows and thinking to yourself it’ll turn one day – and it did.

In any case I compiled a list of things, comparing basically where I am now to where I was six years ago, before it all started.

Six years ago, give or take, my mum was still alive and healthy. I had a full and loving family about me. I had an investment property, a share portfolio, multiple tens of thousands in the bank, and a job earning me around $7,000 a week. I’d travelled abroad for holidays in each of the previous ten odd years, and some years twice. I had an excellent lifestyle, ambitions, aspirations, and hopes to settle down into a prosperous and happy future. Then it all came tumbling down:

  • Mum would be diagnosed with cancer, which would turn out to be terminal.
  • I was defrauded of about $100K.
  • The lucrative job I had would abruptly end as another, unrelated, project crashed. We’d been in discussions for a 12 month extension.
  • My shares crashed leading to margin calls and eventual significant loss.
  • Unable to find work and having used my savings I had to sell my property.
  • Unable to continue living independently I moved into mums.
  • Mum died two weeks later without ever coming home from hospital.
  • Her will led to dispute and a legal impasse. Eventually resolved, it left the family fractured and I’ve not seen or heard of half of them since.
  • Unemployed, near bankruptcy, battling the legal process and living in mums home under threat I became depressed and miserable. Dark times.
  • Will finally resolved I was able to move out, find a home of my own, and pay off the majority of my substantial debt. Time for hope.
  • Still unable to find work, invested in a massage shop hoping for passive income.
  • As the business struggled, still unable to find other income, was finally forced out of my home. Officially homeless.
  • Moved in with my sister initially sleeping on the couch, but not permitted to join in family meals.
  • My father let slip that he blamed me for the divorce from my mum about 30 years before. Relationship – never close – fractured.
  • Finally offloaded the massage shop at a significant loss.
  • ATO continues chasing debt of around $40K. Ends up in court, unresolved. Battle continues.
  • Creditors ringing daily chasing debt.
  • Having patched up with dad it comes crashing down again as he again tries to tell me what to do. Without ever a word of praise or encouragement from him I call it quits. That remains the situation.
  • Forced out of my sister’s home I shift between friend’s couches, house minding at different outskirts of the city, and making it up as I go along living out of the boot of the car with the dog.
  • More court action. More rearguard actions.
  • Just when I thought all my options had ended, including housing, received an email out of the blue which led to my first job in about 3 years.

That was about 3 years ago, and though there’s been much more since then, that basically marked the turning point. Still more court actions, still creditors chasing me throughout, I was at least able to find my first home in 15 months. Slow road since, but things are better, debts are being paid off and I have some life again.

Against that I have no real family any longer – my sister broke from me over a married man she was having an affair with. She believed I wasn’t sufficiently supporting her (having endured weekly updates in the 12 months prior). My sister is no loss – she’s a nasty piece of work – but she disconnects me from the remaining family. I now have but just tenuous connections with my nephews and niece. In basic terms I am without family, but I’m fortunate to have friends who are loyal, decent and caring. I can’t complain.

It sounds like a litany of unfortunate events, but there’s no enduring sorrow, and despite everything, few real regrets. In fact I feel buoyant more often than not and hopeful and confident. I’ve been stripped of all the material possessions I had accrued, and the security that went with it, but I understand that I’ve lost nothing of myself. I’m still just as capable as I ever was, still just as determined, and if anything stronger than ever before. On top of all that I’ve released myself from the burden of my pride and feel freer than I can ever remember, no matter what happens. I’m tied to nothing but my own beliefs and I take care to nurture them.

The only real loss is family, but the relationships I really care about I’m certain I can redeem. The rest I couldn’t care less.

Old Budapest


I got home late last night full and weary and feeling generally worse for wear. Too much of everything pretty much had got to me, but fair to say it doesn’t take as much as it used to.

I sat on the couch and flicked on the TV. I made a call, switching between channels with mute on. I stopped when I found an old movie, Hello Dolly, being shown on one of the old time TV channels. I froze it while I chatted.

I was off the phone in half an hour and, tired as I was, proceeded to watch the last 30 minutes of Hello Dolly.

It’s one of those movies that holds a lot of memories for me. I must have seen it a half a dozen times by now, maybe more. It’s such a joyful movie that anyone who doesn’t like it can only be a bum. It has great music, a fantastic cast, tremendous set pieces. And Barbra Streisand.

She’s the other connective piece of memory. This movie, and others like it, were movies that I would watch with my mum. In later years we might call up to tell each other turn on the TV now, Funny Girl is on, or something like that. And mum loved Barbra Streisand. It’s impossible for me to see or hear Streisand without thinking of mum.

I love her too. What a fucking voice! And what a star she was! You watch Hello Dolly and the music and her singing is out of this world, but then even when she’s not singing she’s compelling in her characterisation. But it all comes back to her singing. I don’t know of anyone I’ve listened to who has a better voice, on top of which some of her vocal stylings are just fantastic. And the songs, the old standard, great stuff.

Weary as I was I watched and I couldn’t help but be happy and glad to be alive. I remembered mum but it was good stuff, and a joyous show reminds you what a marvellous world it is.

Earlier in the night I’d caught up with my very generous friend who had a free ticket for a preview screening at the Classic Cinema in Elsternwick. I had a cocktail first – yeah, I know – then watched the movie, which was okay. It was dark and cool when we came out of the cinema, and a wind blew in from the bay that was fresh and lively and promised rain.

For years I’ve passed by a Hungarian restaurant in Glen Huntly road – Budapest – and thought, I must try that someday. Last night I finally got around to it.

Fortunately they had a happy hour menu, and so I ordered a Winer Schnitzel they promised would overhang my plate – and they were right, it did.

I wasn’t hungry when I ordered, and when finally I managed to consume the whole bloody thing I was absolutely stuffed – but in a good way.

We parted ways at about 9.30 and I waited on the platform at Elsternwick for my train to arrive. The wind was fresh still, the night vibrant and I felt full of a dark energy. I’m alive, I thought, I’m fucking alive and here I am.

The meal at Budapest had reminded me of long ago days when I wasn’t much more than a kid and I would go to a friend’s house and share meals with his family. He’s Jewish, and his mother was a Hungarian Jew who had survived the concentration camps, the only member of her family other than her sister who did.

For me it was exotic to visit on their Sabbath, to break bread with them and give thanks. I was as white bread as you can get, open minded, but a 5th generation Aussie kid who’d gone to a private school, who followed the footy and cricket, born to a middle-class family and inheritor of their values. In my early childhood I’d lived in an area full of migrants, but later had re-located as the good times came to an area full of white professionals.

I was open minded though, and curious, and often fascinated. I remember visiting with my friend his Aunt, his mum’s sister, who lived in Bondi. She was a vivacious woman with strong opinions, with some of the sensuality I associate with Hungarian women. Stepping into her flat jammed packed with heavy furniture and mementoes of her childhood was to step into a Central European alternative reality.

I remember the coffee, thick and strong and with a syrupy residue left in the cup when you finished, and the pastries and poppy seed cake and so on. My mate was spoilt, and as his friend I was indulged too.

These were strong, good memories, long unconsidered. For me it epitomises what life is about, the variety of expression and culture, the different views, the rich experience of contrast and curiosity. There are those who frown upon such difference, who believe our experience should be constrained only to what we already know – what nonsense is that? Easy to pity such people, but easier still to despise them.

Heading home all of that was in me, and I guess it lended itself to my experience of Hello Dolly. In between though I called up that friend, told what I’d remembered and together we reminisced about days long gone, another age – his mother is dead now, as his aunt – and another time in our life. Both of us enjoyed that.

Banging heads


The kerfuffle between David Warner and Quentin de Kock in South Africa reminds me of a story when I was just a kid. It’s basically been alleged that de Kock said some pretty unsavoury things about Warner’s wife, to which he reacted. The story I’m about to relate is different to that, but the outcomes where not dissimilar.

When I was growing up mum and dad were regular entertainers, with something on most weekends either at our house, or at one of our friends. There were about 3-4 families who would get together regularly, with others added to it as desired.

For us kids it was great. We knew the families well and were good friends with the kids of them. While the parents cavorted and carried on we did much the same at the end of the house. I was the eldest of us all, but the next two eldest were girls, and both attractive. It’s hard to say how long it went on for in retrospect, but I reckon over the space of about 5-6 years there would have been dozens of get togethers, sometimes formal, but often informal.

In the style of the day they were pretty loose affairs with lots of drinking, a bit of flirting, and a lot of entertaining comment. Looking back I remember the loud voices and the laughter, and on the stereo (or quadraphonic, as we had) Barry White and Neil Diamond were on high rotation. At some point we kids would be tucked away in bed while they partied on, and if it was at another house I still remember being carried to and from the car by my dad, and into the house and bed, full of sleep, but fondly enjoying the feeling of being sheltered in my father’s arms.

Anyway, it was on one of these occasions at our house that we kids heard a sudden, violent uproar. It was a few hours in and suddenly the night seemed to have turned nasty. There were raised voices of men outbidding each other, and the hushed, indistinct tones of the women trying to calm them down. Our ears pricked. We listened, trying to follow the mystery with our ears. A few more voices and the front door slammed shut, after which a low murmur reached us.

It turns out that the husband or boyfriend of one of mum’s new friends – freshly invited to the occasion – had turned to dad and, indicating mum, said “what’s a cunt like you married to a woman like that?”

In other circumstances, or coming from someone different, it might have been considered a joke in poor case. It wasn’t a joke though. My father was a hard man, and clearly this newcomer had not taken to him – I have vague memories of him as being a more bohemian type, counter to my father’s ruthless corporate edge. Not known for his sense of humour, dad reacted, but most of the reaction came from another of his friends who objected to this insult and bailed up the newcomer. Harsh words were exchanged, and there may even have been some minor physical contact.

The women were shocked. Mum, who this guy had obviously taken a shine to (many did), was aghast something so ugly could erupt. From what I was told the wife or girlfriend of the man was terribly embarrassed by her man’s outburst, but was comforted by the other women. In the end they were ushered out and, if I remember right, were never seen at another of our functions again.

There was another, happier occasion, were the men – including my dad – flung their undies on the roof of a friend’s house and raced naked in the inground. The women were disgusted, but as kids we thought it hilarious.

But that’s another story…