Goodbye Dad

18 02 2018


My beautiful Dad passed away this month. Just over a week ago, and just under 9 months after receiving an oesophogeal cancer diagnosis.

We were told that the ‘do nothing’ option would mean he would have about 12 months. Instead, we tried the ‘do everything’ option – chemo, radio, a medical trial using immunotherapy drugs, stronger chemo… to no avail.

It doesn’t seem fair, he was a healthy man in his prime – just 63 years old and so much life to live ahead of him. A long, well deserved, retirement to live out with mum – adventures to be had, countries to explore.

But always the philosopher, his attitude was “It’s shit. But it’s all a lottery and my number came up – that’s how it is”. He was courageous. He fought hard. He never complained or felt sorry for himself.  He was my strong, brave, resilient dad to the end.

Before he went we were told we were down to weeks – when mum clarified what that meant, the reply came “it could be one week, it could be six – we don’t know”.  He died the next day.

Dad passed away with mum by his side and friends and family in the room. Some of the last words he heard came from my sister and brother as they said goodbyes via the phone. He knew I was on a plane desperately trying to get home to see him in time. There was no doubt in his mind of the complete love he was surrounded by as he left this world.

If you have to go – that’s the way to do it.



Word Constipation

24 11 2014

I’ve stopped writing.

That is, I write all the time but nothing of true personal meaning. All day numbers tumble from my fingers into spreadsheets, I reference international standards and local guidelines, I describe measurement setups, weather conditions and ambient noise conditions – but I don’t write for me anymore. And I miss it.

Is it phalange burn-out,  Digiti Manus accentus? Perhaps.  It’s certainly not for lack of things to say. I have a heap. And they are going increasingly unsaid.

I started this blog when I moved to the UK in 2008, so I could easily share photos and stories with friends and family back home without clogging inboxes and facebook feeds. I was pretty militant about posting too – I think I averaged once a week or so. Not bad.  And then life gets busy, especially after leaving London for the craziness of working in Singapore, and the blog got less and less love and attention.

I was ok at giving little shoutouts to exciting events, a wedding here and a birth there, but the front page was beginning to look more like a tired old office noticeboard with month old newsletters hanging precariously by the one remaining push-pin left after the others had been stolen for newer but equally impersonal announcements. The creative component of creative writing had all but dried up.

Often there was a flurry of posting activities around the end of the year when I get my ‘this year’s stats’ update from WordPress and I cringe at my lack of commitment. And I wanted to do my sister’s wedding justice by blogging the event day by day – but despite my best intentions we’re still only at her hens night, and her second anniversary is this weekend and there’s already a nephew on the scene yet to get some wordpress airtime!

So why the hold up? I guess part of it is that I spend a lot of time in front of a computer at work and the idea of getting home to do more of that is not often attractive. Certainly starting that Wedding series was a creativity killer – I felt I couldn’t add more content until I’d finished the series for fear of interrupting it (as if the multiple-month breaks in between the posts weren’t in themselves interruptive!). Partly its that I write with the hope that the words get read, and if someone is going to invest their time in reading the words I should make sure they are worthy.

Worthy words are hard because worthy words take thought and rereading and revising and rearranging until the words are just as they need to be. Emotive but economical. I like my thoughts to be clear and hard to misread – a combination of technical writing skills to avoid being sued and navigating the tricky waters of eRelationships where tone of voice is lost and words on a screen are all we have. Probably also that I stumble over words when speaking – particularly if they are ones of emotional weight – but writing lets me get the sentiment just right so I don’t come off as flippant or uncaring like I can in speech.

And so why now? Did I discover some sort of literary fibre supplement? nope. A few reasons:

One is reading the Amanda Palmer book ‘The Art of Asking’ and loving the conversational way in which she writes and how it echoes my own written ‘voice’ and how even if there is no groundbreaking thoughts or thrilling stories, it can just be nice to read some words from someone whose writing you enjoy. The words don’t need to be profound to touch or resonate or give you a reason to say ‘hey, good post. we should catch up’

Secondly, one of my bosses filled out and circulated a ‘getting to know you’ survey and alluded to his interest in books and music and talked about dreaming of being a creative writer – it was strange what an impact it can have to be reminded that all of us on that corporate wheel, no matter our position or our success or our office demeanor, feel guilt over not doing the things we enjoy and letting our hobbies fall away in preference of ‘getting shit done’.

Lastly, I’ve been a horrific communicator recently. I’m always so busy, whirling like the Tasmanian Devil in the Warner Bros cartoons from job to measurement to meeting to job, and the quiet space isn’t there to use. And I need that space, because I need to hone my words, and not getting that space means I don’t get the words the way I want them which means they go unsaid which makes me feel like an asshole. I had a good friend tell me her mum was unwell recently and it took me 4 days to get back to her with ‘the right words’ and I hated that because I didn’t want her to feel forgotten or uncared for while I struggled for quiet time, unable to compose a quick reply which carried the concern and love across the screen that I wanted to show. My uncle recently sent a text which was beautiful talking about the gratitude he feels for being a part of our wonderful, supportive extended family. I know this text would have taken time because he is similar to me and likes to craft the words to just right, and I still haven’t sent back a reply because a ‘yep, you too’ just won’t cut it. But now its much later, and while I’m sure he knows that the same love and gratitude flows both ways, I feel like I’ve missed the boat to reply to it properly so instead I carry around this little guilt niggle about a job still undone, an important deadline missed. And these are just the two recent examples that have come to me right now as I sit here. There are countless other notes I wish I’d sent, texts I wish I’d replied to, emails I compose in my head but don’t get written and stories unshared – and it gets worse the busier I am at work because there is no energy left to give to writing and sharing and thanking and loving.

So thankyou for sticking through the writing constipation and for just trusting that the words are there for you even if they are stuck inside my fingers yet to find their way to paper or screen. And I will try to get better at just writing, sharing, replying and making time even if work life is busy.

I’ll try to start writing.

S&B Wedding – Part 2, the Hens Night

25 08 2013

yes, yes… a long time between posts, I know….!

The nice thing about my blogging slackness is that this whole wedding series might be wrapped up just in time for the 1st wedding anniversary at the end of November – I’ll get a guest submission from the happy couple to see what married life has been like.

…but for now, be satisfied with Part 2, The Hens.

Being Maid of Honor meant that myself and my fellow bridesmaids, Schmoorsy and Emma Z, had to keep the bride sane, provide support, help with the preparations, but most importantly of all – organise a killer hens night.

Despite having many friends who have gotten married I’d only been to one hen’s night prior to this. (I like to think that that is due to me being in the wrong country every time one happens, but perhaps there is something more to it now I reflect on it?! oh dear…). But I generally know what is expected of a hens night – drunken frivolity, penis shaped paraphernalia and a selection of saucy activity – be it pole dancing classes, going to see the male strippers, etc. So we started the planning down that route and realised pretty quickly that it didn’t really fit with the Shan we all know and love, so pole dancing/strippers got scrapped and we restarted by figuring out what Shannon loves most of all and what she’d do on a dream day out. We concluded that Shannon’s top 3 favorite things were:

1. Drinking

2. Op-Shopping

3. Cheesy Glamour photography such as…

(in theory if you click the image it will take you to the original gallery I nicked this pic from in case you’re after a little extra entertainment)

So with all our ideas compiled we decided on a day-plan of pre-drinks, an op-shop mission to find fabulous outfits to be photographed in on bearskin rugs with vaseline smeared lenses then on to dinner.

Schmoorsy took the planning of the Hen’s and ran with it, being our girl on the ground. She opened up her home to a mix of friends and strangers, booked buses, found op-shops, organised a glamour photography studio and made reservations at a nearby Mexican restaurant with a convenient 2 for 1 Margarita happy hour.  That woman has a promising career in Events should she ever choose to change jobs. Also, what a great opportunity for further embarrassment to the bride to be by using the fabulous glamour photos Shan had taken when she was 18 as the invite!

invite crop

Shannon’s day started with a champagne and a hairdressers appointment, attempting to detract attention from her recently broken wrist

champagne and hairdressing

Now appropriately styled Shannon and the other Hen’s descended on Schmoorsy’s beautifully decorated house covered with photos of Shannon and Brendan at their best

the gallery

After a quick champagne toast the hen’s all shared the story of how they met shan – the tales bringing tears, screams, mimed reenactments and many, many laughs.

champagne toast

IMG_7578 IMG_7556 IMG_7595 IMG_7617 IMG_7639 IMG_7640

Deeper friendship bonds were forged during the banana game. Pairs of hens raced to see how fast bananas could be consumed when fed to each other.

IMG_7679 IMG_7676

a winning pair was crowned


and Shannon learned some important lessons from her grandmother

IMG_7678 IMG_7685

Schmoorsy directed the Hen’s onto the bus where Shannon was met by her cardboard substitute for the absent Kyoung and off to the Op Shop we went…

IMG_7701 IMG_7692

To keep things extra glamorous every Hen was paired up so that they would have a personal fashion advisor to help them choose their glamour outfit. The Hen’s descended on Good Sammy’s in Perth and began the frantic rummage for a winning outfit.

IMG_7715 IMG_7717 IMG_7719 IMG_7743

With outfits selected and donned it was on to the glamour photography studio – but not without strutting the hot new looks through the city streets and jelly shots on the bus

IMG_7754 IMG_7756 IMG_7768

The glamour photos involved bear skin rugs, red velvet, thrones and calls of “you’re a tiger! you’re a tiger!”. Solo, group and even boudoir sessions were completed under Shannon’s demure supervision

IMG_7787 IMG_7790

All too soon, the night ended at the local mexican restaurant where we finally got to the obligatory penis paraphernalia which included penis straws

IMG_7817 IMG_7829

…and Shannon and Colleen’s favorite – the 6 foot inflatable penis. A great way to end a fun and unique Hen’s night and a great way to start of the wedding party calendar


S&B Wedding – Part 1, The Bucks Party

29 01 2013

And so begins a short series on my sister Shannon and her wedding to my new brother-in-law Brendan in November last year.  

Too much happens around a wedding to condense it into one single post, particularly a ‘destination wedding’ like this where people flew in from all corners of the world to attend. 

To kick things off in real style I’m starting off with the coverage of the bucks night with the help of a very special guest author – my dear old Dad, Durham!

Here we go…:

I was quite chuffed when Brendan invited me to his bucks party. As well as being an ideal opportunity to meet my future son-in-law’s friends and family in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, it was also a great way to study first-hand how the buck’s party has evolved over the last 35 years … (I felt like David Attenborough about to observe lowland gorillas in their natural habitat, forgetting that I might actually be perceived by them as an old silverback trying to protect his family from a raiding party of rogue males)

The last buck’s party that I can recall attending was my own back in 1978. Buck’s nights in the 70’s were a very basic affair – 20 blokes would turn up with huge quantities of long necks and cans … (back when VB tinnies were actually made of steel and could be consumed in under 2 seconds by ripping the ring pull from the can, inverting it and quickly piercing the base with a can opener) … and everyone would just drink themselves blind. To lighten up the night, someone would do party tricks like removing the tops off beer bottles with their eye socket, and then when things got boring the groom-to-be would get his balls covered in toothpaste – (an old boy scout trick). In the morning (and with scrote still burning), you fought the urge to either barf or squid yourself as you cleaned up the flat which was almost as trashed as you were. All quite simple really …

The modern buck’s party has become a major logistical (not to mention expensive) exercise involving multiple sessions of organised fun and acts of blokey bonding … (but still observing the time-honoured tradition of consuming excessive amounts of alcohol). The plan for the day involved a 7:30am start (in reality it was closer to 8:30am!) for a bus-ride beyond the burbs to play paint ball, back on the bus to go to a nearby pub for lunch and a couple of beers, followed by another bus ride to play nine holes of Supergolf and visit a micro-brewery, then back on the bus to Brendan and Shannon’s place for more beers served by novelty beer-maids, before moving on to the “Paddo” for dinner and more beers … and did I mention that we had a couple of eskies filled with beers for all the bus legs?

For anyone who has contemplated playing paintball but not got around to it yet – it REALLY hurts! The rules are simple, if you get shot anywhere on the body (except in the head) you are officially out of the game and are supposed to put your hand up and leave the field of combat until the next game. Unlike real warfare, head shots don’t count! You can get hit in the head as many times as you can stay un-concussed and keep on firing at the other team (or occasionally “killing” your own team members with some poorly-aimed friendly fire!) Before even one shot had been fired, I was betrayed by Brendan and Michael (my son) who both waited for me to pick a side so they could join the opposing team and shoot me wherever and whenever possible. They didn’t necessarily want me out of the game, so took great delight in shooting me in the head as often as possible – a cowardly act, as I have an undeniably large head and make an extremely easy target.



My only chance at revenge against my future son-in-law was the “buck’s run” – where the groom, best man and groomsmen are forced to run without cover in front of a firing squad. Tempted though I was to obliterate Brendan’s wedding tackle with rapid-fire paint balls, I had to be satisfied with shooting him in the lower back in order to maximise pain without reducing my chances of having a grandchild one day.


Supergolf is an interesting game – but unlike paintball, it is relatively pain free. As someone who sucks at normal golf, I enjoyed playing a game that is such an equaliser. Brendan and Michael may have managed to beat me on almost every hole, but I was seldom more than 2 shots behind them. When teeing off, it was tempting to take a long run-up (Happy Gilmore style) when belting the crap out of the large plastic balls with a colour-coded set of Mickey Mouse’s golf clubs.


At the end of a hard day of physical activities and sitting on the bus, it was clearly time for another beer. So the buck’s party relocated back to Brendan and Shannon’s place to finish off the afternoon. In order to make the experience more enjoyable, Glen (Brendan’s best man) had booked a couple of girls to fetch us beers for the afternoon. There is something about scantily clad girls handing you a beer that forces you to make strong eye contact and pretend to engage in intellectual conversation … all the while wondering whether we had really evolved very far from our primitive gorilla relations? (Eat your heart out David Attenborough!)