A lesson in love, after all these years. Two friends showing the rest of us how it’s done.

August 27, 2013

We worked together more than twenty years ago.

I was a kid, with little idea about anything. Somehow, they still befriended me.

He was the radio station’s sports man. Followed in the giant footsteps of his mate Darrell Eastlake. He was our rugby league caller too. Accurate and passionate.

She looked after station promotions. If we were involved in something, she was in the thick of it. Possibly the funniest woman I’ve known. A delicious laugh with a razor-sharp wit.

We caught up last weekend. Like so many of my colleagues of the time, we’d lost contact over the years. They were in town, and made the effort to get in touch. I’m so glad they did.

I organised to meet at a pub with a view. I saw them before they saw me. Sure, time had changed both. Older, and a little slower, like other retired couples. I could have sworn they almost walked in step.

After hugs and handshakes, the stories came thick and fast. We laughed lots. It was a time when after-work drinks happened every night. And some afternoons. Even a few mornings. Long before Human Resources departments were involved in our lives.

As we sat there, I noticed things about them. One would help the other finish a story. She buttered his fruit loaf without breaking sentence. He organised the sugar for her cup of tea.

Things were not always so easy. I remembered back to when they got together. Both had gone through painful break-ups. A difficult time. It took years. But they were meant to be.

Over a second cuppa, she told me about some of their struggles. He sat quietly, letting her tell the tale of their life. I had no idea how tough things had been.

However, each story came with a laugh. No seeking pity here. It’s just how life plays out. They were survivors, who had each other. What else mattered?

She said they talked, constantly. First thing in the morning. Last thing at night. Everywhere in between. They are still genuinely interested in each other.

They giggle, lots. Even when there’s not much to smile about. They didn’t need anyone else around to have fun. They have always enjoyed doing the most basic of things together.

I asked if there was a secret. Simple, she said. Find your best friend. And be with them for life.

They were running late for another catch-up, but didn’t seem to mind. He told of their fascination with the car’s ‘talking navigator’. A woman’s voice telling him where to go. Another one. They both laughed at that.

We promised to keep in touch, and we will. I watched them walk away, and they were talking as they went. He was carrying her coat.

Two people, still happy after all this time. Best friends. With no need for anything outside of each other. Yep, she’s right. It’s that simple. Love always wins.

An important online security warning. Why bumbling dads need to be protected too.

August 20, 2013

There are those out there willing to take advantage of the innocent. Tech-savvy types, ready to make fun of the unaware. They’re called daughters.

Yes, these delightful young ladies, with perfect manners and sweet smiles, have a secret agenda to humiliate poor old Dad. I hear some of you muttering that’s not a particularly difficult task. You’re not helping.

Like most of their age, The Teenager and Daughter Two are immersed in the world of social media. But not the ones you and I know.

Forget Facebook and Twitter. They barely rate a mention. It’s all about Snapchat and Instagram. And a few others I can’t fathom.

For those who remember black and white television, let me explain. As best I can. Instagram is all about photos, with smart comments. Snapchat is the delivery of photos and videos with smart comments, that disappear after ten seconds. Are you still awake out there?

I don’t understand the attraction. But then again, I still take Daily Doubles. For teenagers, Snapchat is the perfect way to communicate. Minimal effort required. Just a few words. Let the technology do all the work. And then it’s gone.

Armed with their new i-phones, my daughters are ready to capture anything, at any given moment. A squadron of friends is doing the same thing, waiting to swap whatever comes their way. The more ridiculous the better. And when it comes to ridiculous, Dads are hard to beat.

When we’re in the car, music is played at a decent level. The perfect place to trap an unsuspecting driver. And it’s taken me weeks to realise.

Their cunning system is as follows. One will take the front seat, and find a song that they know I like. As I launch into a version that may or may not be pitch perfect, they begin recording. Secretly, with the phone casually pointed in my direction.

Sometimes, I may be doing daggy dance moves while driving. They find this amusing. Apparently, so do their friends.

It came to a head on the weekend. My sneaky offspring slipped a favourite Christmas carol into play. I’m battling city traffic and red lights, and suddenly Mariah Carey springs into action. ‘All I Want for Christmas is You.’ What was a man to do?

I launched into it with great gusto. The judges are still deliberating on whether I hit the high notes. All in all, I was happy with my performance.

That was, until the giggling began. They couldn’t help themselves. Nor could hundreds of others. Thousands maybe. I was being shared around the globe. Well, South Brisbane anyway.

There’s every chance I have my own YouTube channel, and don’t even know. Someone could be getting rich from my unique sound.

Where are the i-phone police when you need them? Dads have rights too. I’m sure I read that somewhere.

Let this be a warning to all fathers. You are now a target. Do something remotely silly, and you will be a star. Sons and daughters will see to that.

I’ll be toning down my car singing in future. And my crazy arm waving. You can’t trust anyone. Especially family. And Mariah Carey.

The tragedy of losing Simone. Why we must never forget.

August 17, 2013

It’s been a few weeks now since racing lost Simone Montgomerie.

There were wonderful tributes at the time. The kindest of words, for a talented jockey who was anything but a household name.

Those headlines have now faded. Her colleagues are back riding, many still with heavy hearts.

She lost her life, doing something she loved. On Darwin Cup day. Before the locals, who had adopted her as their premier rider.

There are few jobs where you might lose your life before clocking off. Jockeys face that reality every day. Every ride. Every furlong.

When Simone died, the outpouring of emotion from those in the racing game was overwhelming. Genuine distress. From people who knew and loved her. And others who’d never met her.

Social media came into its own. The industry shines at such awful times. Participants who can bicker about the state of the track and the price of a pie, come together as one.

There were so many impressive gestures. The Darwin club donating the Cup prizemoney to Simone’s family. Tommy Berry giving up his winnings for a day. Clubs around Australia naming races in her memory. All that money, going to a foundation to help her daughter Kodah.

I’d never backed one of her runners. In fact I’d only ever seen her in action a few times. But in the days after her death, like so many others, I felt close to her and her shattered family. From a distance, we wanted them to find some kind of peace.

It also made me think about all the other jockeys, who take those same risks. Hoops I know, personally, and through Facebook and Twitter. Hard working, fun, courageous people.

It’s so easy for us to bag them, when things don’t go our way. We want perfection, every time. Our pockets talking. But when we see a fall, no matter how minor, we hold our breath.

Life moves on, of course. The trick now, is for us to never forget Simone. A mum who didn’t make it home. We owe her that much.

Conversations with myself at 4.15am. Is anyone else out there not sleeping?

August 6, 2013

I could have snoozed for Australia.

Seriously, I had representative potential as a snorer. I could drop off anywhere, anytime.

Mum would all but use a large stick to get me to school. It annoyed her each and every morning.

Horrendous radio shift work didn’t worry me. I’d sleep all day. Or all night. Take your pick.

In later years, I’d be in dreamland before my head hit the pillow. And eyes would not open until that alarm was blaring.

So what’s happened? Why can’t I sleep a full night anymore? What’s with waking up in the dark?

I think back to some record-breaking efforts in the land of nod. I once slept for a full weekend. If it happened today, I’d be getting a medal from an FM radio station.

It was after a cruise on the Fairstar. The Funship. Let’s just say that as young men, sleep was well down on the list of priorities.

We saw the sun come up, as we sailed into Sydney Heads. Cool drinks had been consumed at a fair rate. For eleven days. Slumber was counted in minutes, not hours.

I caught the train home. Walked in the front door late Friday afternoon. Gave Mum a cheap Suva carving. And went to bed.

I pulled the covers up at around 5pm that day. And I slept the sleep of the dead. Saturday came and went. Sunday morning was lost too. This was a Guinness Book of Records snooze. Mum was ready to call an ambulance.

I emerged from my darkened room, with a two-day growth, on Sunday afternoon. Gave her a kiss, and promptly went to the pub. The boys were waiting for me. They were impressed. As only 18 year olds could be.

Forget sleeping 40 hours. These days, I struggle with 40 minutes.

A mate told me he heard someone on talkback say that all blokes will eventually wake up at 2am. It was a comment with absolutely no scientific fact behind it. But that matters little. He now wakes up at 2am. Every morning. And can’t get back to sleep.

My magic figure is 4.15am. No matter how tired I am, that’s when my eyes open. Day after day.

I don’t want to be awake. 4.15 is a time for bakers and breakfast radio hosts to be up and about. Not me. I want to be dreaming about my speech as a winning owner at the 2018 Melbourne Cup.

But I can’t get back to sleep. Not until I’ve thought about stuff. A long list that could surely be dealt with at a more respectable time.

I start going over the wonderful things I want to do with my life. And the people I want around me. Special people. I question why things take time. Or happen so quickly.

The bleary-eyed problem here is, all this could be done later. When the sun is up. Or going down. Not at 4.15.

I’ve tried lots of things to get back to sleep. Someone told me to imagine placing my over-active brain in a shoebox, so that all thought ceases. Sounds good, until you see how small my shoebox is. Something else to worry about.

Maybe it’s a temporary thing. A phase, where minimal sleep is sufficient. I might be days away from lapsing back into those marathon snooze sessions.

In the meantime, I’m catching up on my rest wherever I can. At the dinner table. Driving to work. At the checkout. Cat naps to recharge. You won’t even notice.

If you ever need to pass the time at 4.15, I’m your man. We’ll be sleep-deprived together. Just place your tiny shoebox next to mine.

My mate the racecaller. The bravest bloke I know.

August 3, 2013

We hear lots about bravery. Too often when talk turns to highly paid footballers doing what they’re paid to do.

I usually keep such terms for discussions about our troops. Or cops. People putting their lives on the line for the rest of us.

But I’m making an exception today. I want to give you an update on a bloke most of you already regard as an old friend.

Wayne Wilson was the voice of racing up here. For me, and thousands of others.

As I travelled around Queensland over many years, he was the one who told me whether I’d won or lost. Long before I was lucky enough to meet him, he dictated how my weekends would pan out.

It was not long after we got to know each other, that he became crook. You wouldn’t have known at the time. He didn’t miss a beat on the track. Bringing a Class One alive, and nailing another photo finish.

Bloody cancer. For a while, it didn’t look good. But Wayne had other ideas. He fought it, like a tiger. Explored other treatment options. And eventually came good.

When he decided it was time to retire from the caller’s box, he hatched a plan to do other things on course. Interviews and analysis of each race, beamed around the track.

I don’t know if I’ve ever met a person with more passion for the racing industry. Watch him on race day, and he can’t walk two steps without being collared by someone. A trainer, or a punter, or an official. All friends.

It was his young bloke who told me he’d become sick again. We’re workmates, and great mates. I admire how tight father and son are. They laugh, constantly.

But this was no laughing matter. The dreaded disease had come back.

Can you believe, Wayne and I had surgery on the same day? The racecaller and the punter, both under the knife within hours of each other.

Compared to what he’s gone through, my surgery was like having a band-aid removed. It’s fair to say he’s lost count of the bits they’ve taken out and shifted around.

I spoke to him the other day, and he sounded as if nothing had happened. Was more interested in how I was going. And that voice, was the same as I’d heard on my radio a thousand times.

He’s doing well. That positive attitude continues to shine through.

We promised that we’d both get out to the track again soon. A little celebration of what we’ve overcome.

The problem, of course, will be that I won’t get near him. He’ll be swamped by well-wishers. And he’ll talk to every single one of them.

He’ll be tipping me winners for a long time to come. My brave friend, who refuses to give in. Wayne, thanks for being such an inspiration.