Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Breakfast Club

I drove up to Perth and back last night. I try and avoid that usually but this was a special occasion; the last Breakfast Club gathering for the foreseeable future.

Phil and his family are about to return to Afghanistan for the fourth time, working in international aid, relief and community development. I don't need to say how acutely aware of the risks and dangers we all are on his behalf, especially in light of events there this week. It is difficult for people to understand why they are going but as Phil describes the calling he feels and his commitment to the nation and people of Afghanistan it is hard to argue against it. He is one of the most intelligent and committed people I know; this is not a decision taken lightly or without due care and consideration and should decisions and choices be made simply on the criteria of difficulty? ie. If it's too hard should we not do it? Imagine if people stopped doing things because of adversity? Afghanistan is a difficult place to live without doubt but it needs the help of citizens and governments from around the world and I admire and respect Phil for his dedication to its cause.

With the Holt Press family also about to relocate, admittedly to a far less hostile environment, we don't know when the next time will be that we're all together again.
With that in mind I was very keen for Breakfast Club to happen last night and thus the decision to go up and back in the one night.

I was not disappointed, it was a GREAT night. We ate at a Vietnamese restaurant in Vic Park that the boys recommended then complained about, nothing new there! Hugh bagged the Indian restaurant we went to last time and Broadie's whinging about the teriyaki beef at the Vic Pk food hall the time before has reached epic status.
To me the food is immaterial, it's all about the company and the relationships. (I had the prawns in chilli sauce, Mmmm!)

We have been meeting for 17 years so there is a huge shared history and experience. I started the Breakfast Club as a support group when I commenced as school chaplain at Carine in 1993. We met one Saturday morning a month for breakfast, each of us bringing some sort of food stuff to share. My contribution was bread and spreads. Broadie brought juice. Hugh supplied milk and cereal. Phil had the "interesting" brief so lychees or coconut milk or dried yams or whatever else he could scrounge would appear.

We mostly met at Hugh's when he was live-in weekend caretaker at Lisle Lodge in Claremont.

  Me, Broadie, Phil, Hugh- The Breakfast Club

There were a few other members and visitors along the way, the most significant of whom was Kerry aka Beaker aka Kristo. I won't mention Terry the Cat Dumper for risk of upsetting Hugh.

Phil is a founding member but came and went a number of times as he and his family did stints in Afghanistan.

Hugh and I are the only ones who can claim a 100% attendance record.

Broadie was recruited after Beaker went off to Iraq to protest against the war and has become a staple member, if somewhat erratic in attendance. Basically if there's the possibility of a Book Club/ Knitting Group/ Leftie Gathering any time within a week of Breakfast Club he bails but we retain his membership because he makes us laugh. He always complains about insufficient notice but the point to note here is that he always complains.

Hugh is the "senior" member of the group, having pushed on into his 7th decade on the planet recently and is responsible for funny voices, accents and smoking impersonations. Probably the most conservative member of the group, he is also the most generous.

I convene the group though our meetings have become irregular and further apart due to our sojourn in Busselton.

We met at Phil and Julie's last night and before going out to dinner prayed for their children, for safety and protection as they return to Afghanistan.

I had reflected on  TBFC as I was driving up from Busselton after work and decided to do a little exercise together to look at the history, connections and memories we share as a group, starting with our families then tracing TBFC story.
I put it all on paper in a rough diagram and we added notes and dates as we remembered various incidents and episodes. I intend re-drawing it and sending copies to everyone; a document chronicling our group.

I met Hugh via SU after being recommended by Laurie Haynes and ended up running a number of abseiling and caving camps for him and his kids from Perth Mod in the early 90's. He has no children; his only family is his brother David who still lives in the UK. Hugh is held in such affection by my family that Sport Boy asked if he could come to Hugh's 60th birthday party last year.

Phil and I met when he came to RYLA in 1992 and then came on the team the following year. We also worked together at Chip Inn, the drop-in-centre I ran at Warwick Church of Christ. We did heaps of camps together and lots of stuff with kids.
I was in their wedding party, I baptised Phil, dedicated Pieta who survived a serious heart condition as a baby and recently led them in a recommittal of their wedding vows. Phil says the only thing left to do now is bury him. Hopefully that won't be necessary for a very long time. He and Julie have three kids.

I knew Broadie by reputation but we met properly at Sailing Camp in about 1997 and then did numerous camps together including MAD Camp, Leadership Camp and the legendary Footy Camps we ran for SU. It was Broadie who first suggested Adopt-a-Crab which lead directly to Digby Morrell being drafted from West Perth to North Melbourne. Broadie is the "junior" member of the BFC and is gifted with a quick wit and the art of the acerbic comment; he likes his humour dry.

We don't have an agenda at TBFC, we just get together for a meal (usually dinner now but the name hasn't changed) and talk about what's been going on in our lives. The topics of discussion range from marriage, families, work, church, politics, current events, sport, art, vocation and whatever else may come up. We have shared significant events in one another's lives: Phil and Broadie's marriages, the births of our ten children, Broadie 3, Phil 3 and me 4, changes in jobs and career paths, overseas travel and work, moving away and now moving even further apart. We are never lost for words.

Humour has been one of the lubricants that keeps the Breakfast Club running, we always laugh when we're together, even when the topics we talk about are serious.

I feel a deep and abiding affection for the members of TBFC, they are amongst that small group of people who I call my closest friends in the world. I would feel comfortable talking to them about anything; I would feel confident seeking their help in any situation. I can say unashamedly that I love them.
They are and have played a very important part in my life and I anticipate they will continue to do so, regardless of whatever distance or circumstance may separate us.

We prayed for one another before we departed last night, mindful that our future is uncertain but our commitment to one another and the Breakfast Club is not.

NB. I listened to ABC radio as I drove home to Busselton (240km) and rang in to try and answer a question in the quiz. (Turns out it wasn't The World According to Garp as I thought!) Talking to the announcer I mentioned where I had been for the evening and the nature of the event and Phil's imminent return to Afghanistan. It felt good to put The Breakfast Club onto the national stage for our 15 seconds of fame!!


Peter said...

A great tradition which I hope continues Marcus.

itinerantindigent said...

mate, that is a whole lot of nice and good and cool things to say.

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