Saturday, 23 August 2014

A Celebratory Journey

Digger on the left is my great uncle. I'm not sure who the other bloke is.

Last weekend I flew to Mackay to share in the celebration of the 60th wedding anniversary of an uncle and aunt.

My mother (who died in 2001) was matron of honour at their wedding in 1954. I have only vague memories of the occasion, as I was seven years old at the time.

The bride was mum’s youngest sister. Both she and my mother were teachers, and in many ways they were very similar, both strong smart no-nonsense women.

The groom was a dashing young cane farmer. He would have been a great catch, as he was good looking, a talented singer, and the life of the party.

They had seven children, later sold the farm and bought a motel in Mackay, and lived very active and productive lives running this business and raising their family. My uncle is a great cook, and he put this talent to good use in the motel.

In many ways he is the original Renaissance man. He was, when he was younger, equally adept in the kitchen, in the farm shed, on the stage, or running the business.

Their youngest daughter was born with severe disabilities. My aunt, with single minded determination and over many years, developed a range of support structures for her, and other young people with disabilities in Mackay, culminating in the creation from scratch of an organisation providing residential accommodation and respite services.

This required enormous endurance, resourcefulness and determination, and my aunt has these virtues in spades.

This daughter was probably the happiest person there on the night. She has a great quality of life.

I renewed acquaintances with my large extended family, and heard for the first time, an interesting account of one of my great uncles who went to the western front in WW1, and married a French girl.

I must do some research on this.

I was also reminded of growing up west of Mackay at North Eton. Back then, we (in those days there were four of the six children) would drive to Mackay every Saturday and collect our “order” (groceries) from the grocery store run by my uncle’s two sisters. The family was of Chinese heritage, and my uncle introduced my mother to Asian cooking, recipes which she added to her more traditional repertoire, and which to this day, I still use.

We would usually have dinner with them, and then (in the days before TV) sit around the Pianola whilst my uncle would sing a broad repertoire of songs.

These ranged from Al Jolson, through Harry Belafonte to Peter Dawson. He could do justice to just about anything. My younger sister ended up as a music teacher, and I wonder if her early interest in music was piqued by these family evenings.

My mother attempted to teach me to play the piano, but I always had better things to do.

Mackay is brilliant at this time of the year.

Hugh White - Without America

Hugh White is always provocative, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising current defence policy. In 1995, he was appo...