Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Things I Learnt, Laughed about and Loved, and What I've Lost: Dad's Legacy

This is the reflection/eulogy I delivered at Dad's funeral.

Dad's Legacy
The things I learnt, the things I laughed about, the things I loved and the things I've lost.

Dad taught me to be generous. Not in a formal way but by example. At various times a cheque would arrive in the mail with no strings attached, just Dad sharing what he had. When we went out for meals, Pop always paid, even if I offered but I'm proud to say that in recent years I've paid the dinner bill a few times, and, following his example, when we take the kids out, we pay. When I came to my senses about buying a house Pop was 100% behind us and gave us a gift that helped us towards a deposit. I rang him to thank him in tears and he said it wasn't necessary, he was just  happy to help.

Pop taught me that you have to work hard to be married. We talked a lot over the years, about all sorts of subjects and when it came to marriage he bore the scars of two failed marriages and the regrets he had, especially about the way he and Julie split up. He regretted not fighting for it, not working harder, not changing, being stubborn and pig-headed. He encouraged me in my marriage and taught me the value of working at it, and 31 years in we're in the best place we've ever been. And I don't mean that I'm here and Carolyn is in Scotland!

Pop taught me the value of family, of close relationships with the people you love. He had an interest in genealogy and kept a detailed family tree. He knew who all his cousins and ancestors were on both sides. He especially loved his sister Merle, visiting as often as he could. He loved his nephew John, considering him to be his 4th son in many ways. He loved his parents and of course, he loved us four kids, although it did take him quite a few years to be comfortable verbalising it. Over the last few years Dad was prone to strong emotions and tears. He said he wasn't bothered about crying, it was the way it rendered him unable to talk or regain control that he hated. The thing that was sure to trigger tears was anything to do with his family, kids, grandkids, even ex-wives. Seeing and knowing that he was loved in return was a great comfort to him.

Pop taught me the value of friendship. He considered a person fortunate if they had 3-4 really good friends. He cherished his many friends and maintained contact with them regularly. He accepted that his mates weren't perfect, Keith, but loved them anyway, just as they accepted him. Allan Davies, Keith Grimshaw, Neil McQuinn, Allan Banfield and Warren Green, your names  are written in the Holty Hall of Fame of Mates.
I have sought to follow his example and work hard to build strong friendships with my mates. I am especially proud that one of my best mates Gary is the son of one of his best mates, Allan Davies.

Pop taught me how to care for him as he was dying. All four of us kids spent time with him in Queensland as his own father was dying and the tenderness and care with which he treated his Pop always moved and inspired me. I can still see him stroking Pa's forehead, cooling him down with a damp cloth and attending to his needs.
Late one night in the hospital with Dad as I was talking with him and trying to care for him he paid me a great compliment when he said "You're pretty good at this". 
I had the dual privileges of being there with him when Pa died, and of conducting his funeral service. Therefore it was incredibly special for me that my son Paul arrived at the hospital just half an hour before his Grampa died and that I was holding Dad's hand telling him "I love you Dad" as he took his final breath.

I have lost the long late night talks as we discussed life, love and the state of the world. We didn't agree on everything but we had great respect for one another and loved one another's company.

I have lost the road trips we shared to places like Benalla to see Danny Delaney, to Bendigo to see his great love, the other woman in his life, Marilyn Monroe and her exhibition. The trip across the Nullabor through kangaroos in plague proportions and surfing Wave Rock. The trips to Carnarvon Gorge with Bruce and Peter King as we tried to get past Dad, the Mack truck on the track. Dad loved driving and thought nothing of heading west across the Nullabor, especially when Vicki and family were still in Wudinna.

I've lost the wise man on the other end of the phone who I would ring for advice. He always said he hated telephones but I had plenty of great conversations with him on the phone, sometimes at inconvenient times, like when I was living in London and would forget they were 8 hours behind!. I rang Pop whenever I had a big decision to make or something I needed to discuss and work through and his advice was always wise and thoughtful and with my best interests foremost in mind. And I always knew when Pop was calling me because I had assigned him a personal ringtone.

I've lost the chance to make more memories so it is very important that I hold onto the ones I have and take the time to remember Dad. On the first night he was at McKellar I stayed with him and around 4.00 in the morning he stirred and was awake and restless. I sat with him and we talked for about an hour. I thanked him for being my Dad and told him he was my hero, that I had always admired him and looked up to him.
"That was a mistake" he replied.
I apologised to him for being a little shit when I was a kid.
"You weren't a little shit" he said, "you were a big shit"!
I asked his forgiveness.
He responded, "Easiest job I've ever had".
He asked if I remembered when Pa died, about the struggle to take his "final breath" and I asked him if that's how he was feeling now? "Yes". I didn't think he would make it through the night but he held on long enough for the boys to make it from WA and Greenie from Qld.
Pop didn't like the taste of water and preferred to drink lemon squash but had given it up on doctor's advice. Finally at about 5.00am he said, "F&%# my guts, let's drink the can of Solo" which was in the fridge. I cracked it open and held it up to his mouth. After he had taken a couple of sips he turned the straw towards me and invited me to share his drink. It was a gesture and moment of intimacy that I will treasure forever.

I have lost the laughter, the fun and jokes we shared. Pop was quick witted and funny. He and Greenie could never be serious for more than two minutes. He had a twinkle in his eye and a wisecrack at the ready. When the Dr suggested that the job of looking after him at home was too hard for the team of family carers and asked if he knew what that meant Dad shot back, "Yeah, I need a new team".

I'll miss his idiosyncrasies, the strange quirks and funny habits.
Dad's favourite shop was Aldi and on countless occasions he would emerge with some strange new purchase that he hadn't planned on buying.
I'll miss his over-reaction to selling his beloved tent for $40 at the garage sale despite the fact he hadn't used it in 20 years and never would again.
His other favourite excursion was to Bunnings on a Saturday morning for a  sausage sizzle.
Talking of food, Friday night meant just one thing to Pop, fish and chips!

When we were kids Dad liked Frank Sinatra which was bad enough but it got worse in the second half of his life because he became devoted to country music and as you've seen and heard, his all-time favourite artist was Slim Dusty. The standing joke amongst the family is that I have inherited all Dad's Slim Dusty albums! In a moment of weakness I made a promise to Dad that I would play Slim every year on his birthday. You are welcome to join me in this annual ritual on "Slim Dusty Day" May 28.

Many years ago I introduced Pop to Blogging on the internet and he became a dedicated blogger on "HoltiesHouse" which in turn led to him becoming friends with dozens of other bloggers around Australia and around the world, especially in America. These friendships continued when he got on to Facebook and I tried for years to get Dad to go on a trip to the States but it never happened. I'll get him there by hook or by crook though, after he's cremated I'm taking some of his ashes with me on my next trip to America and will sprinkle them in the Grand Canyon.

Pop loved collecting movies on DVD and Blu-Ray, there are literally hundreds of them filling racks at home, and his favourite stars were Marilyn Monroe and The Duke, John Wayne. We counted up 55 pictures of Marilyn around the house, and found a file on the computer entitled "1000 pictures of Marilyn Monroe". Duke statue.

I dropped in to see Pop on the way home from work one night and put some ice cream in his freezer to stop it melting. He said it might not fit but it did. Next time I called in I couldn't believe my eyes, there in his tiny kitchen was a massive new two door fridge freezer. "What did you buy that for?" I asked. "So you'll have plenty of room to fit your ice cream in now" he replied!! The fridge was so big he could only just open the door without hitting the dishwasher. This led to an innocent suggestion that he needed a bigger kitchen. Lo and behold, next time I called in he had started drawing plans and working out how to knock down a couple of walls and double the size of the kitchen. Thankfully it never got beyond the drawing board. Fast forward a few months, Dad is at our place for tea and he asks" Could you use a new fridge? Mine's a bit big!!"

One night while having dinner with friends in Gympie, Diane commented in a slightly disapproving tone, "Marcus calls you Pop, not Dad" as if it was an irreverent term.
He replied "I called my Dad Pop".

Finally, I've lost the love that Pop shared with me and my brothers and sister. His love for his family remains perhaps my strongest impression of him.
He was proud of each of us, supported and encouraged us and wanted the best for us. He was saddened by the things that hurt us and rejoiced in the good things, our marriages, our children, our achievements.
He wouldn't have a word spoken against us.

We spent many hours talking about my progress at uni and I know he believed in me and was proud of what I was doing.

After the last road trip of his life, to Adelaide for Jenna's wedding, he told me how proud he was of Bruce and the way he had looked after him.

Dad believed in us and invested in us whenever and however he could.

He loved us unconditionally.

I love you Pop.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

The Life and Times of Peter Holt, my Dad, who died June 29 2107

Life and Times of Peter Holt

Peter Mervyn Holt was born at Healsville on the 28th of May 1936 to Mervyn and Evelyn Holt, or as we called them, Big Pa and Nanny Falia. His sister Merle was born two years earlier and his half-brother Jack was 11 years older. Jack's father died as a result of WW1 and sadly young Jack passed away at age 15 from tuberculosis. I asked Auntie Merle once what Dad had been like as a brother when they were kids. "He was very pinchy! He was always pinching me" she told me. Happily, they were close their whole lives, especially in the latter years when Dad often visited. Dad had many happy memories of growing up with cousins Danny and Tickey Delaney, John Ranton and David Ballard.
Dad moved around a lot as he grew up, living in various places including Benalla, Fitzroy and Northcote. He attended school in Collingwood and from there became an apprentice motor mechanic. It was around this time that he connected with a group of young blokes through the Northcote football club who would become life-long friends: Allan Davies who married Jeanette, Keith Grimshaw who married Anne, Neil McQuinn who married Joan, and Frank Johnson who Dad reckoned was the best footy player of the lot. Their numbers are dwindling but it is lovely to see Keith, Jan and Frank here today. Dad met and married Jacqui Burmeister in 1956 and these young families all grew up together, their children becoming pseudo-cousins.
The Holts moved around Victoria for a few years, with my older brother Alan being born in Birchip in 1957. Vicki was born in 1959. Myself and Bruce were born at PANCH in 1961 and 63. We were living in Bundoora at the time and Dad, having quickly decided he didn't want to be a mechanic, worked in various sales jobs with companies such as Westtools Good Year before taking up the position of BP rep in Geelong in 1966. We moved to 119 Aberdeen St Newtown. Dad enjoyed working for BP and made a number of friends through the job including Keith Harwood and Geoff Ferguson but the real treasure was to be found in Barwon Heads in the shape of Allan and Lorna Banfield. This friendship has endured pranks and practical jokes and grown for over 50 years and Allan and Lorna who are both in their 90s are here today.
It was in Geelong that the family's love of football blossomed and I have fond memories of Dad taking us to play footy in the Geelong West little league on Saturday mornings. Bruce and I played for The Toughies, against the same opponents every week, The Terribles. We both moved on to play for the Terrifics while Alan played for The Capris. Last year I tracked down Eric Nicholls, the Terrifics team manager and former Cats' player and Pop and I had a reunion at Kardinia Park.
I think we four Holt kids had a happy childhood but I have no memory of Mum and Dad having a close or happy marriage and it came as no surprise when they parted in 1970. We moved to Moolap and Dad moved to Brisbane with Julie and they became the proprietors of BP Cavendish Rd in Holland Park. It was here that fate dealt dad a Royal Flush in the shape of Warren Green or Greenie as we affectionately know him. You'll hear from Greenie shortly.
I will just say this: when I rang Greenie to give him the news Dad was dying, he replied "That's the worst news I've ever heard".
We spent Christmas holidays with Dad and Julie including the famous floods of 1974 that kept us marooned in Queensland an extra week.
By this time Mum and us kids had moved to Perth but I was pretty unsettled and after a difficult year I was sent to live with Dad. I spent three years with Dad and Julie, first in Rosewood where they had the Caltex garage and then in Toowoomba where Dad drove a school bus and owned a rubber stamp shop. In 1979 they were free of me and soon after set out on a long-term dream trip around Australia. Travelling around the country he loved became one of Dad's favourite things to do and he loved nothing more than a road trip. The red centre, Uluru, far north Queensland, outback South Australia, the Kimberleys, the Tassie wilderness and the Nullabor, he loved them all and never tired of discovering special places around Australia. Settling for a time on a small property near Maryborough, Dad and Julie spent a few years taking school photographs for Pacific all over Victoria and into SA. With Vicki and Rex and the grandkids living at Wudinna there were regular trips to the Eyre Peninsula. Sadly Dad's marriage to Julie did not survive which he always considered to be his greatest regret and for a few years he was in a wilderness of loneliness and pain. Hitting the road again he found himself in Tin Can Bay and booked into a caravan park. This proved to be highly significant because it was there that he met a group of people who not only rescued him from his heart-break but went on to become firm friends, Ken and Jackie, Margaret and Lyle and Albert. They hit it off immediately and had many laughs and good times before Albert's sudden death. Dad moved to The Palms, a property outside Gympie with Margaret and Lyle and they all lived together for a few years until Lyle also passed away. Dad's next move was to 74 Duke St Gympie, the house he lived in for over 15 years. Alan Vicki Warren Zach and I surprised him with a visit for his 70th birthday in 2006.
Dad considered himself to be a hermit, happy to keep his own company and during his long sojourn in Gympie he made very few friends, yet he was always keen to take a road trip south and visit friends and relatives every couple of years. Many times I suggested/urged him to move so he could be closer to his family but he stubbornly resisted and in fact he would still be in Gympie if it weren't for discovering he had bowel cancer in 2013. Vicki and I were on a plane the next day and what followed was a year in which at least one of us was with him the entire time as he went through surgery, chemo and radiation therapy. His favourite daughter Vicki spent months away from her brand new house in Leopold to look after him and the boys all made regular trips to share the load. Pop came through all of this with no pain and barely a symptom, no nausea, no hair loss, just one little blister on his bum at the end! Eventually though he realised that we had all sacrificed a lot to look after him and that if he got sick again it wouldn't be fair to be so far away from us, so he relented and moved back to Victoria. Alan and I had a huge garage sale, packed up his house and managed his relocation to his last Holtieshouse in Geelong.
If it weren't for the cold Victorian weather he'd have been very happy. He renovated the house, renewed regular contact with the Banfields, re-established a very close relationship with his first wife Jacqui which is a credit to both of them after divorcing 45 years earlier, and he was much closer to all of us kids, especially Vicki and I.
Regular visits and outings and occasional road trips continued and in fact Dad and I had started planning our next trip to Sydney and Brisbane, with me, then over to WA with Greenie for this very week when he got sick again. A UTI, bursitis and a very low mood combined with the one on-going legacy of the bowel cancer, frequent frustrating visits to the dunny were all signs something was wrong and after a couple of falls and mishaps he finally agreed to go to the hospital and get checked out. The bad news was the cancer had returned and spread and was inoperable. Dad elected not to have any treatment so we knew the inevitable end was coming. That was 6 weeks ago and during those last 6 weeks there was never a time when he was on his own, first at home and then at the McKellar Palliative Care unit to whom we are all deeply indebted and grateful for the wonderful care they took of Dad at the end of his life. We delivered a bucket full of chocolate bars and goodies to the hospital yesterday to thank them. There were many visitors including his cousin Danny Delaney, and for much of the time Dad was in good spirits, talking and joking and remembering old stories. I want to acknowledge all those who stayed nights at the hospital with Dad, part of the bargaining promise made when he went in!, son Alan, grandsons Zach and Cody, best mate Warren and especially my little brother Bruce who carried the lion's share of the load over the last couple of weeks which took a toll on him physically and emotionally. On behalf of Dad and all of us I want to say thankyou to Bruce for the wonderful job you did, and to all those who cared for him in his final days.

Dad's condition deteriorated significantly on the Monday and we all sensed the end was very close. Vicki Bruce Jacqui and I were there all day and in near miraculous circumstances, grandson Paul arrived half an hour before the end and cousin Susan arrived from Queensland just two minutes before Dad passed away. He was surrounded by people who loved him, he was ready to go, he had been in no or very little pain all the way through, he had seen the people on his bucket list, he had been told a multitude of times how much we loved him and he even had his eyes open as he took his final breath. The last words he heard were "I love you Dad". 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Pop's 80th Birthday

On Saturday evening we held a party to celebrate my Dad's 80th birthday and I wrote a poem for the occasion.

Here it is:

Pushing Eighty: The life and times of Peter Holt

In 36 at Healsville Peter Holt was born
Son of Merv and Evelyn and Merle's little brother
"He was always pinching me" she told me once with scorn
A ratbag kid, once crowned with a breadboard by his mother

The family moved around from Dixon's Creek to North Fitzroy
Always on the run or on the track
Growing up with cousin Danny suited the boys
Til TB claimed the life of brother Jack

Merv liked buying cars and telling yarns
He worked as a bus conductor for a while
Later on he had horses in the barns
But a tractor selling farmer cramped his style

Peter's youth was misspent around Northcote
Lifelong mates were made in Brunswick and Fitzroy
Rabbit shooting and a Royal car salute
While a certain young lady had her eyes set on the boy

Allan Davies and Peter often shared a joke
about their little mate Grimshaw
Each disowned the little bloke
He's not my mate he's yours

Dad's told me many times how fortunate you are
If you can claim three or four lifelong friends
He found just that in Allan Davies and Keith Grimshaw
Frank "Abo" Johnson and Neil McQuinn.

Peter and Jacqui got married in 1956
While he plied his trade under cars and bonnets
Marriage can be harder than winning gold at the Olympics
And theirs was no Shakespearean sonnet

But it did produce some long lasting blessing
Birchip is famous because Alan Holt was born there
Birchip? Where's Birchip you're no doubt asking
Just head north west til you reach the middle of nowhere

Vicki arrived in a soup can two years on
Mark and Bruce followed soon at PANCH
Settlement Road Bundoora was our home
And Peter worked at the local Goodyear branch

In 1966 the Holts took a major step
Packed their bags and headed for Geelong
As the newly appointed BP Rep
Peter's career was surely moving on

No more Ron Barassi or Teddy Whitten
We kids now barracked for Geelong
The footy bug had well and truly bitten
With Polly and Wadey the Cats looked mighty strong

Through BP he met a lot of folk
Fergusons and Harwoods I recall
But one name stands out no joke
The Banfields were the closest of them all

Late night chess games with Al
Lorna's jokes and pranks
Both Mum and dad are lifelong pals
For 50 years of memories we give thanks

Saturday mornings playing golf at Yarra Bend
Gold Cross Golf weekends were nice
But Peter's swing caused wonder to his friends
Uri Gellar had nothing on his slice

In 1970 Peter and Jacqui parted
8 Fork St  Brisbane his new abode
A new life with Julie started
As proprietors of BP Cavendish Road

That's where a strange bloke entered their gates
When I say that don't think me a meanie
For years now they've been best of mates
Cause everyone loves a mad Greenie

We spent each Christmas up in Queensland
But the floods in 74 had us stranded
An extra week of holidays unplanned
Til finally in WA we landed

A year of turmoil and family unrest
Resulted in me moving to live with Dad
It was suggested that would be the best
But I don't think I was really all that bad

We lived in a little town called Rosewood
Not far from Pa and Auntie Ada's place
The Caltex servo provided the livelihood
Hockey with frogs and Julie the ping pong ace

Next was Gentle St on the Darling Downs
Express Rubber Stamps and a school bus run
One urgent Sunday morning caused giggles and frowns
And solemn threats to the kids they'd better keep mum

One holiday trip to Carnarvon Gorge
saw us flooded in again
Until an enterprising farmer we'll call George
used his tractor to pull us across the drain

Three years was all that any of us could stand
and in 78 I headed back to Perth
Dad and Julie sold up, bought a 4WD and a caravan
and set off to explore the best country on earth

Before they set off on their trek round Australia
One sad event had touched the whole Holt clan
Peter farewelled his Mum in Nathalia
and we said goodbye to our much loved Nan

Their travels took them from one side to the other
From the top end to the bite and the red centre too
Their journey rivalled the Leyland Brothers
But it almost ended when they climbed Uluru

Something strange happened as they travelled the country
Was it the water or the air or just getting rusty
Suddenly Pop's music taste was nothing but country
Cranky Franky was gone and in his place, Slim Dusty!

Years later when living at 74 Duke St
More tragic than the last stand of Custer
Every year come rain snow or sleet
Pop could be found at the big Gympie Muster

After scouring the country on a journey most thorough
Peter and Julie decided they'd better settle down
So they bought a little farm just outside Maryborough
Where they nearly went crazy chasing sheep up and down

Life on the farm was pretty terrific
But didn't quite make ends meet
So they started to work for Pacific
Taking school photos all over the state

Then came the saddest part of this tale
From which Peter still bears the scars
What caused his second marriage to fail?
After a road trip home from Big Pa's

Peter and Julie went their own separate ways
And Dad felt lost for quite a while
But the road that took him to Tin Can Bay
Turned his life round and brought back his smile

The people he met and the friends he made then
Brought him out of his sad depressed state
Like Margaret and Lyle and Jackie and Ken
And wearing dresses with Albert his mate

From Tin Can he moved to The Palms with some friends
and lived there for a year or two
When that good time came to an end
He bought a Queenslander with an aromatic view

Peter loves Marilyn Monroe
and has a soft spot for cowboy John Wayne
He has all their movies on video
and watches them over and over again

A few years back I introduced him
to a thing called blogging on the net
HoltiesHouse became quite a passion
As folks from all over the world he met

He'd never been sick was something Dad used to say
For years and years he was totally well
Then he woke up one morning to find with dismay
He was Facing a palsy called Bell's

That was annoying and a bit of a hassle
Because no-one had a cure or an answer
But it soon took a back seat as well
When Pop discovered he had cancer

Bowel cancer was the shock diagnosis
The family rallied to his bedside
Radiation chemo and operations
And a bag to carry at his side

Dad breezed through all of the treatment
at the end the doctors gave the all clear
He knew one thing that that meant
The value of having his family near

If the mountain won't come to Mohammed
Mohammed knows what must be done
So Peter put Duke St on the market
and bought a little house in Geelong

A monster garage sale soon followed
Boxes and cartons were packed
After the last drop was swallowed
Our hero once more hit the track

Now he finds himself back in Geelong
Nearer to family and his favourite girl
The only sad part of the story
Was the loss of his beloved Merle

For the last couple of years when we've nattered
A phrase he's oft repeated is "Matey
Take it easy, it just doesn't matter
Don't you know that I'm pushing eighty?"

One last mystery remains to be told
And I tell it with a curious bent
How come his name is Peter Holt
And not Peter Mervyn Flint?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Danny Delaney Trip

When I went to Auntie Merle's funeral last February I got a huge surprise when an old bloke introduced himself to me as Danny Delaney.
"The legendary Danny Delaney"? I was shocked because I'd only ever seen photos and heard stories of my Dad's cousin and (wrongly) assumed he was dead!
But he was very much alive and standing there shaking my hand!
Sadly in the busyness of the day I didn't get to talk to him or his wife Kath for very long and when I went lloking for him later they'd already left.
Danny and Dad were great mates when they were young kids, 5-12 years old approx. before family movements etc parted them. A very long period ensued, perhaps 40 years before they saw one another again and only once or twice in total since they were kids.

Pop was in hospital in Queensland when the funeral was on and I excitedly related the encounter to him on the phone the next day. We resolved, once he had recovered, to take a trip and visit Danny and catch up properly.

And a few weeks ago that's what we did. The day after the Paul Simon and Sting concert at A Day on the Green near Geelong (a brilliant show) we set off for Benalla and had a long lunch with Danny and Kath at the bowls club. It was wonderful and both Dad and Danny had a real twinkle in their eyes as they talked and reminisced and caught up on one another's news. I loved hearing the old stories of their adventures and misadventures as kids such as when the horse they were driving with a buggy took off on them and headed for home without them. They had obviously been great friends and had a lot of fun together and for a couple of hours they were  transported back to that time, circa 1940-46. a time of childish innocence and simplicity where all you needed was a couple of sticks and your imaginations to become cowboys and play in the bush for hours.
I took some great photos of them together but my phone and computer refuse to talk to one another so I'll have to add them later when I figure out how to do it. (Found a way around it).

After Benalla we headed for Shepparton and had a brief visit to Auntie Merle's grave where we were surprised to realise it was exactly a year ago to the day that she died. On to Mooroopna for a very brief visit to my cousin John and his partner Heather before heading further north to Tocumwal.
 It's just over the NSW border and we stayed the night with one of Pop's oldest mates, Keith Grimshaw who along with Allan Davies made up a trio who spent more than 50 years as great mates. Keith's wife Anne died some years ago, as did Allan but Dad stays in touch with Keith and Allan's wife Jeanette who we went on to visit the following day in Yarrawonga. Keith is a funny character and there were lots of stories told and memories shared although sadly Keith's memory is starting to let him down and he couldn't remember some of the stories of their youth. We had pizzas for dinner and had an entertaining and enjoyable stay.

As mentioned, next stop was Yarrawonga to see Jeanette and one of her daughter's Carole where we also had a great time of story-telling, memories and exchanging news. Jeanette's son Gary is one of mt best mates but I hadn't seen Carole for a long time and listened with interest as she talked about her health, her kids and the journey she's been on.
We had dinner at the pub that night, with Terry Wallace sitting at the table next to us.
For the uneducated he's a former AFL footballer and coach. Amazingly I had walked past him at the concert two night's earlier.

After a night at Yarrawonga we headed back to Melbourne for a very quick g'day to Gary and Christine before I had to get back to Geelong to start work.

Something I'm very pleased about/proud of is that Pop and Allan were lifelong mates, his son Gary and I are great mates, and our sons Paul and Nathan are also friends. That's three generations of friendship.

It was a fantastic trip, visiting old friends, seeing the countryside, talking and laughing and travelling and spending heaps of time with Pop. I've been trying for years to convince him to take a road trip around the USA. He's always found excuses not to do it but maybe.....if I keep working on him.....we might just pull it off..... (I said "might" Pop!)

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Sports Feast

I've just been swapping texts with my mate Darlow about how much we're hanging out for the footy season to start.
But, there are some pretty decent entrees being served up at the moment.
I'm writing this in front of the TV and watching the Aussie Open Final. Novak has won the first set but is doing some weird stuff as if he's injured. Andy Murray keeps throwing away opportunities. I went to one day of the tennis in the first week. One day my aim is to go to the Final. One day...

Last night was another highlight, seeing the Socceroos win a ripper of an Asian Cup Final against South Korea. Just when we were within 90 seconds of winning Sth Korea equalised and it went to extra time. Thankfully Australia scored the winning goal and saved us all from the agony of a penalty shoot-out. The whole tournament was excellent, not a single draw in the whole 32 games. We wnt to one game: Jordan v Palestine. It was so good to see Australia win it's first major trophy and to enjoy Tim Cahill's heroics.

This morning before work I watched a fast forward replay of Tottenham's 3-0 win v West Bromwich Albion which got my day off to a good start.

After work I went down to the Geelong foreshore to watch the finish of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race cycling event. Although Cadel didn't win it was a great race and a good crowd were there to see a National icon in his farewell event.

I'm keeping a discreet eye on the final of the one day cricket with Australia doing well against the Poms.

And then the main course tomorrow morning our time: The Superbowl. (The NFL Grand Final)
Seattle Seahawks v New England Patriots. I've even got the day off so I can watch it without interruption or delay.

So much sport! I love it.

And bring on the footy!!

PS. I laughed out loud when I heard the following on the radio this morning.
The ABC were doing a wrap up of the Queensland  election and the interviewer asked the president of the Liberal National Party, Bruce McIvor what he'd thought of the Prime Minister's decision to give Prince Phillip a knighthood on Australia Day?
"I was shocked"
Did he think it had had any effect on the election outcome?
"Id rather he'd given the gong to Wally Lewis"

Hear hear!!

It's hard to believe it's February already.... only four weeks to go until I start uni!!

One more thing. If you know anyone who wants to buy a house in Busselton please let them know we have a great 4 bedroom house for sale there which for some reason hasn't sold yet....and we're getting a bit anxious about it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday Night

It's Sunday evening. Sport Boy has returned home safe and sound after a couple of days in Melbourne hanging out with friends and Jordy. After days of unseasonal, though not unexpected, cold wet weather it's been a lovely day, soured only by the headache I've been trying to keep at arm's length all afternoon. It probably started not long after I watched Tottenham inexplicably lose to Crystal Palace! What's the good of beating Chelsea if we turn around and lose to Palace I hear you ask? Indeed!

I've been ticking a few things off my To Do list this arvo: 

1. Select final elective for semester 1, - "Introduction to University Study". That should be handy.
2. Email the agent about the broken railing on the balcony.
3. Email St Nick (and the footy club) re. our house for sale in Busselton.
4. Revise a few listings of things I've got for sale on ebay. (sold a few cards and a badge today).
5. Print some pictures of new drivers at work for the noticeboard, (community building)

It wasn't on my list but I also completed my latest picture last night. Perhaps it is part of the reason the list has been neglected...

Just got to update my roster then it's off to bed cause I'm on early starts again this week.

I always enjoy that feeling of productiveness that comes with crossing items off my to do list, and some of these have been transferred from previous lists more than once!

Thursday, January 01, 2015


Happy New Year etc etc
Last year I set an aim to post to my blog on a regular though not frequent basis. A quick examination shows that I haven't blogged here since April 2014! 
I'm not making any promises, especially ones I can't keep, but I would like to be a regular blogger again in 2015, so here goes.
It will be a year of significant change for me as I have enrolled at university and start a four year course in March which hopefully will see me qualify as a primary school teacher, just in time to retire! Maybe not. Hopefully I can teach for up to 10 years and get some decent mileage out of my belated study. I really have no idea what to expect from uni. How will I handle the workload? writing assignments? Doing pracs? Drinking large amounts of beer? and the myriad other reputed components of student life? We will see.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Aloha in Three Days ...and counting

Time has flown, and is indeed flying towards the next BIG thing... this Sunday Mrs Holt Press and I fly to Hawaii to spend two weeks with our dear friends Paul and Vicki. We are ticking jobs off our to do list in preparation: passports, visas, travel money, insurance, hotel booking, flight details, connections and transfers in Sydney and Honolulu, US plugs, packing etc. Then of course there's managing Surf Boy (formerly known as Sport Boy) in our absence. Hello Nan! He's not too hard to manage apart from being coeliac (allergic to gluten) and having a propensity to lose mobile phones. He will be kept busy in our absence, initially at Soul Survivor and in the second week "on duty" at the Bells Beach Pro surfing competition. Now that he attends SEDA surf school in Torquay he and his grommie mates will be "working" at the Pro. (Trying to get close to Kellie Slater, Mick Fanning et al more likely!) Of course, he's just a little jealous that we are going to Hawaii, the birth-place of surfing :)
Paul and I met in Cairns in 1980, both of us travelling around Oz. We've grown closer and closer as the years have passed despite living on opposite sides of the world. I last saw him in New Zealand in 2009 on a fly fishing trip. We are all very excited about catching up in Hawaii where Paul and Vicki have a house.

Following my mission to Queensland to help Pop get ready to move I spent 5 days in WA. 

It's been a whirlwind for Dad the last few months. He had his final operation following bowel cancer, sold his house in Gympie, bought a house in Geelong and moved back to Victoia after an absence of 20 odd years. And in the midst of all that his sister, my Auntie merle, passed away. He is settling in well to his new home and getting lots of stuff done to make it comfortable. It is great to have hime living so close for the first time in 40 years! Unpacking

The main purpose for the trip was to spend some time with my mate Letchy hiking on the Bibbulmun Track. We used to do this regularly but it is nine years since our last hike and we both felt the difference big time! Poor Greg ended up with terrible blisters and struggled to make it to the end on the second day. Despite the pain we had a great time together, talking and sharing and remembering. We walked from Sulliavan's Rock to North Bannister, about 40km, a journey that Greg did last year with his son Ryan and Huss, the afghan boy who had lived with them for the last three years. Tragically Huss took his own life a few months ago. Our hike was done in his memory and hopefully helped Greg with his grief and sadness. Bibbulmun pics on Facebook

Typically I managed to squeeze plenty more in to my 5 days: the CFFL pre-season draft with all the footy boys, watching the Dockers with a couple of Freo supporting bogans on Friday night, golf and catch up with my old (young) mate Ryan, a couple of days hanging out with Jordy, Sculpture by the Sea at Cottesloe, a night at Sally and Warren's, trawling a couple of swap meets, seeing Big Brother briefly and Sunday night with 3/4 of the Breakfast Club for dinner in Mt Lawley. Friends and family on FB

It is always great to see my mates and friends and spend time with my son but I also spent significant time talking about a major decision I've been contemplating for a long time. After many years of avoiding/delaying/procrastinating/wasting time I've decided to bite the bullet and do what I should have done years ago. I'm going to go to university and get my teacher's degree and then hopefully have a late blooming career as a teacher. It will take 4 years to get a degree which will hopefully allow me about 10 years of teaching. I'm leaning towards primary teaching.Unfortunately I left it too late to get started this year at Deakin Uni in Geelong and there's no mid-year intake so I won't be able to commence till 2015. That gives me the rest of this year to get ready and work out how to manage on a student income. I'll work part-time in some capacity while I study.It has taken me a long time to get to this point in my life but now that I've made the decision I'm excited and eager for it to begin.

Meanwhile, Hawaii awaits...

Friday, March 07, 2014

The End of Holties House, sort of...

I've spent the last week with Dad in Gympie getting him ready for his move to Victoria. Big Brother aka GHB and I came up last week and spent the first few days preparing for a HUGE Garage sale. 
It ran both Saturday and Sunday and achieved all our major goals: ie. Get rid of as much unwanted stuff as possible. Make as much money as possible. Make enough to cover the cost of our airfares. It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun.
Since then it's been all about packing for the big move. GHB went home yesterday and now we are very nearly done. That's just as well because I'm going

home tomorrow night. We set off for the Gold Coast in the morning. I fly tomorrow from there tomorrow night so will have just enough time to stop off at a theme park for a few hours of fun and frivolity. Just me. Dad's not into roller coasters.
Then back to Victoria and home for Mrs Holt Press' birthday on Saturday.
Dad will stay here a few more days until the property settles and the movers arrive then head south with his van fully loaded next week.
Farewell Gympie.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Farewell Auntie Merle

On Friday we drove up to Shepparton for my Auntie Merle's funeral. She died on Feb 8 aged 79 and although it was a shock to hear she had died it was not really unexpected. I hadn't seen her for over a year but Pop had been to visit her twice when he was down for Christmas and she had said to him she was ready to go. In fact she even said she wanted to go, and perhaps having seen her brother for "the last time" she had ticked off a final item on her bucket list?
I was very glad that Dad had seen her recently and spent some good time with her because due to a clash of scheduling he was unable to come down from Queensland for the funeral. The day before he had the final operation to reverse his stoma and remove the colostomy bag after a 12 month battle with cancer.Every indication so far is that the surgery was successful and Dad is on the way back to good health. 

The funeral was held at the Salvation Army church in Shepp and I thought it was a lovely service. 
Dad had written a eulogy for his sister and asked me to deputize for him which I was honoured to do. When I walked in and saw the flowers on the coffin I suddenly remembered he had also asked me to get a bunch of flowers on his behalf!! Thankfully there was a florist not far away and I had time to go and get some but....it was Valentine's day!! Busiest day on the florist's calendar!! There were masses of red roses and romantically intentioned customers everywhere but I found a couple of lovely bunches of native orchids and the girl arranged them for me while I wrote a card and within 5 minutes I was back at the church and all set. 
I was able to set up Mrs Holt Press' ipad to record the service so that Dad can watch it later, along with Vicki who just missed getting back from her Pacific island cruise in time to make it to the funeral. 
More importanly, my cousin Kathy and her husband were able to cut short their trip to Thailand and get back in time.

I delivered the eulogy on dad's behalf and managed to keep my emotions in check, something he had feared he would be unable to do if he'd been there himself. He had written a beautiful tribute to his beloved sister and several people commented on it later.

I was followed by my cousin Geoff who spoke on behalf of Auntie Merle's kids and family and he did a fantastic job, painting a really lovely and complete picture of his Mum. Towards the end his emotions swelled up and tears flowed and it was a poignant tender moment of love and sadness.

Then came a beautiful powerpoint presentation of photos of Auntie Merle's life accompanied by her favourite songs. It was great to see pictures of her with so many people she loved and was loved by. There were many pictures of her with Dad and they were always smiling and happy together. Dad had written that apart from early childhood when they didn't always like one another, the remaining 60+ years of their relationship had been one of harmony and love, with no recollection of any argument or conflict between them. That showed in the photos.

Straight after the service came one of the highlights of the day for me. An old couple approached me and the man introduced himself as Danny Delaney.
I was stunned. I had only ever heard the name and hadn't realized he was even still alive.
"The legendary Danny Delaney" I replied!
Danny was my Dad's mate (cousin) when they were kids, living at Dixon's Creek (?). There are photos of them together as young boys and I've heard stories of some of their exploits but to meet him in the flesh was wonderful. He grasped my hand warmly and said how pleased he was to hear that Pop's operation had been successful and that he was doing well in recovery. I felt transported to another time and place and euphoric and touched and amazed all at the same time, as if a character in a favourite book had suddenly come to life and appeared off the page in the flesh. The only disappointment was that we had to adjourn to the cemetery for the burial and I didn't get to see Danny and his wife again, I would love to have talked to him some more and heard some of his stories and memories.
(When I told Dad about this encounter he too was moved and promised that once he moves down to Victoria we would go and visit Danny. I can't wait.)

The cemetery was a long way out of town and if I hadn't been following the hearse I'd have questioned whether we were going the right way but sure enough we eventually got there and a brief burial and committal was held in the lovely surrounds. Auntie Merle was buried alongside her beloved late husband Harold.

We then returned to town for refreshments at the Parkdale Hotel and it was great to catch up with family and friends I hadn't seen in a long time. In fact I was shocked, and a little ashamed, to realise that I hadn't seen my cousins Geoff and Julie in 40 years!!!! The Holt and Gallagher kids were inseparable every school holidays when we stayed at Nanny's place in Nathalia. The Gallaghers lived next door and the holidays were always full of adventures and games and family fun together. How had we let 40 years pass without seeing one another?
(I had seen John plenty of times during that period and Kathy and I had hung out a bit as young adults as well as a visit to her place when Dad was down about 12 months ago).

We resolved not to let so much time and distance pass again without seeing one another and began discussing future Holt-Gallagher get-togethers and reunions. I look forward to them already and considering that so many of us now live, or will be living back in Victoria it will be a lot easier to organize.

I enjoyed meeting several of my cousins' kids for the first time too, especially Bec who had come down from Queensland. She was very close to her Nan and has written posts on Auntie Merle's blog a number of times to keep people informed about her health and eventually her passing.
Dad has some lovely photos of Auntie Merle on his blog, Holtieshouse too.

The other BIG news is that not only has Pop bought a house in Geelong but just a week after putting his house in Gympie on the market it has sold and at a higher price than he'd hoped for! The move is well and truly on now. In fact, Alan and I are flying up to Queensland next week to help with the packing and preparation. I've been commissioned to run a BIG garage sale to help dispose of all Dad's unwanted stuff prior to him moving. 

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Melbourne Now Dancers

Kids at Melbourne Now

on You Tube

NB. I asked their mum's permission

Friday, January 31, 2014

Melbourne Now

Today's Culture Club excursion was to see the much-publicised "Melbourne Now" exhibition at the NGV.

Our companions were Neil and Tracey who are into art both personally and professionally.

I loved the exhibition. It is huge and hugely varied, across a range of media (and venues).

The pieces that stood out for me were:

A large 4 screen projection of socio-economic-political-environmental data about Melbourne portrayed in diagramatic form. I know that doesn't sound all that impressive but trust me, it was.
It mapped things like the 70,000 trees in the urban forest of Melbourne, identifying them by type and health (healthy through to dying). The incidence of car accidents (should have been labelled "crashes" but that's just my opinion) throughout the city, grading them in severity and cause. The drains and pipes that run beneath the city. The areas of disadvantage, colour-coded. The age of buildings, from 1850 through to the present day. etc
All done with simple, effective and surprisingly beautiful computer graphics. (I couldn't find a picture of it so have added this pic of another very interesting piece. My favourite part "Spokesman Denies He is a Spokesman")

A collection of Australiana tea-towels, some of which had been amended by the screen print artist.

A resin cast three dimensional image called "Don't Worry" portraying people and episodes from the artist's life which was incredible, though quite "dark" in feel and theme.

I'm not much of a video art fan but there was one very cool exhibit of a camera travelling down a seemingly endless laneway which was in fact a compilation of lanes and alleys from all around Melbourne seemlessly woven together.

And a lights and music installation that inspired  two wonderful kids to dance. To my annoyance I can't get the video to upload to Blogger but you can take my word for it, they were great. Here's some other kids letting their hair down instead.

Of course there were parts of the exhibition that I didn't like or that didn't work for me but there was more than enough that did to make it well worth seeing.

We also had a very nice lunch at Optics in Fed Square.