Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gone to Queensland

I am at Dad's place in Gympie, Queensland having flown up to Brisbane last night.
I've got a rostered week off from work and didn't want to waste it bumming around the house so I invited myslef up to stay with Pop for a few days.
He seemed happy enough with the idea. We stayed the night at Greenie's last night, slept in this morning and had a bit of a look around some old familiar places this afternoon like BP Cavendish Rd and Fork St where Dad and Julie first worked and lived respectively when they moved to Queensland in the early 70's. Then we spent a couple of hours driving up the Bruce Highway to get to Pop's place. It's good to be here, the weather is lovely and the company excellent.

I can't close without mentioning the fantastic afternoon I spent at the footy with Favourite Daughter and Sport Boy watching the Mighty Cats kick the 4th highest score in AFL/VFL history, 37:11-233 to obliterate Melbourne by 186 points, the second biggest winning margin in history. The Cats were AWESOME, INCREDIBLE, BRILLIANT, SUPERB AND PHENOMENAL! It was a privilege to be there and witness such a display of football. Go Cats

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Photographic Brilliance

Ode to Cadel

The whole country has celebrated the brilliant triumph of Cadel Evans in the Tour de France. I watched as much as I could although the late nights didn't mesh too well with a week of early starts at work. Cadel has a house in Barwon Heads, just across the newly opened bridge from Ocean Grove, a bridge that may in fact be named in his honour if locals have their way. A succession of towns around the country have laid claim to him. He was born at Katherine in the Northern Territory, grew up on an Aboriginal mission, and has lived in various places such as Armidale NSW, Eltham Vic and Switzerland! He spends his Summers at Barwon Heads apparently, and is a neighbour of Ian Cover from the Coodabeen Champions. When questioned about where he comes from as Cadel rightly describes himself as "Australian".

Hopefully there'll be a big public reception to welcome Cadel "home" to Barwon Heads/Geelong/Victoria.

In the meantime, a bloke called Peter Dooley, from Greenwood WA (we used to live there a long time ago) wrote this ode to Australia's newest sporting hero. It was published in today's Addie (The Geelong Advertiser) and I thought it was worth sharing.

If Bradman rode a bicycle
I bet he'd go like hell
But we don't need another Bradman
Cos now we've got Cadel

A heart bigger than Phar Lap
He's dancin' on his toes
He's climbing off the canvas
Just like Lionel Rose

He rode just like a demon
Through high water and hell
The boy from Barwon Heads
The man they call Cadel

He was down for the count
He was nearly on his knees
But he dragged himself and half the field
Up the Pyrenees

They said history was against him
That the gap was just too great
And when his bike broke down beneath him
They began to commiserate

But he jumped back on his bicycle
Took the bit between his teeth
Riding to the rhythm of
The heart that beats beneath

Carrying the hopes of a nation
Against the sands of time
He digs forever deeper
Until the finish line

So let's enjoy the triumph
And raise a glass towards the heavens
And suffer in ya lycra jocks
Cos we've got Cadel Evans

So every kid who has rode a treadly
Grazed a knee or snapped a chain
Every paper round riding warrior
join in this refrain

Cadel's an Aussie legend
And for that we all say ta
Cadel's an Aussie legend
A bloody Malvern Star

 Peter Dooley

Saturday, July 09, 2011

50th Birthday Weekend Guests

 Joshua & Eleanor
 Chris, Pop, Vicki, Joshua
 Mum, Birchy, Carolyn, Chris, Pop, Vicki
 Jordy, Me, Zach
 Me, Alan
 Me, St Steve
 Collo, Me, St Steve

 Dave, Collo, One of Dave's kids
 Mum, Me, Pop
 Me, Vicki, Pop
 Sophie, Me, Zach
 Callum, Sally
Me, Sally

 Alex (Taken in Busselton)
Me, Chris (Taken in Esperance)

50th Birthday Weekend Part Two

If you are just catching up with my blog make sure you read Part One first so that all of this will be in perspective and correct chronological order.
Part Two

The first potential spanner in the works came when Tiger cancelled the flights that several of the WA contingent were due to fly on! The joys of cheap fares and discount airlines! but there were further problems to come of a more earth-shaking nature. Having managed to secure replacement flights on other airlines, these subsequent flights were threatened by the ash cloud that resulted from the volcanic eruption in Chile!
Cancellations and delays made the already tricky arrival schedule of the birthday guests a changing and uncertain affair. Despite these hiccups everyone ended up making it.

The following table summarises the comings and goings as I remember them. Unfortunately I’ve lost the sheet of paper that had all the travel and accommodation plans on it so this won’t be as accurate as I’d like.


6 weeks early
On time



Fri AM
Fri AM
Mon PM
Mon PM

Sat AM
Sat AM
Mon PM
Wed AM

Sat AM
Sat AM
Sun PM
Sun PM


Fri PM
Fri PM
Sun PM
Sun PM

Fri PM
Fri PM
Sun PM
Sun PM

Fri AM
Fri AM
Mon AM
Mon PM

Fri PM
Fri PM
Mon AM
Tue AM

& Eleanor
Fri AM
Fri AM
Mon PM
Mon PM

Sally Warren
& Callum
Mon PM
Mon PM
Wed PM
Wed PM




Chris & Carol

Originally Sophie (Favourite Daughter) said she would cook dinner for us on  Friday night, which would be a treat as she is an excellent cook, but there was a mysterious change of plan and instead she and Mum took me out for lunch on Friday.
(Carolyn was busy doing a Zumba instructor’s course that day which is a whole other story, and she couldn’t join us for lunch.) I figured something was afoot but had no idea what.
When I walked into the restaurant I got perhaps the biggest surprise of my life, all 50 years of it! Sitting at a table was someone I hadn’t seen in nearly 20 years. Joshua Brinen. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Not just because it was so long since I’d seen him but because of where he had come from to be there: the USA!!!
Further explanation is required.
Back in 1982 when I was 20 I travelled overseas and was away for a couple of years, living in London most of the time. In the northern Summers of 1983 and 1984 I went to America and worked as a camp counsellor on a Summer camp in upstate New York. It was at Camp Schodack that I met Joshua who was 12 years old. He was in my bunk (group) for the Summer and we became friends. The whole camp experience was wonderful and after it finished I stayed with Joshua and his family for a couple of days. The following year I was Josh’s counsellor again and a second memorable Summer ensued although not without mishap.
One day Joshua fell off a horse and broke a bone in his shoulder. I took him to the hospital and stayed with him for the next four hours as we waited for treatment. My care and concern for him while he was badly hurt had a much greater impact on him than I realised because he attributes this incident as the reason I became his “hero”, and ultimately why 27 years later he flew half way around the world to come to my 50th birthday! Not only did he come from America but he also brought his 5 year old daughter Eleanor with him, all for four days, and all to honour me and celebrate my birthday.
The backdrop to the backdrop is that over the last dozen years or so my Mum has travelled to the USA and stayed with Joshua and his family on three different occasions. Unbeknownst to me they had been plotting for the last two years to pull off this surprise and boy oh boy, they got me an absolute beauty! I could hardly speak as we ate lunch I was so stunned to see him, and to realise that he had come so far just for me.
Having these special surprise international guests added a whole new dimension to the weekend.

By Saturday morning everyone had arrived, the food was being prepared and the BBQs were hard at work. At this point I need to mention Chris and Carol, our next door neighbours. A few days before the weekend when I was working out where everyone would sleep I realised that it would be handy to have a couple of extra mattresses. When I went next door to ask Chris and Carol whether they had any they could loan us they countered by saying, “We’ve got three spare bedrooms, how would people like to stay here?”
Their generous offer was the perfect solution to our accommodation needs, providing us with an extra two queen size and two single beds in three separate rooms for the weekend. They even had a side door, accessible via the garage so that people could come and go without disturbing them. This proved very handy as we had a couple of pretty late nights.
On Saturday morning Chris also offered us the use of his BBQ and in fact ended up cooking half of the meat for us too. In light of their generosity and hospitality the least I could do was invite them to join us for lunch and they said later they had really enjoyed it and that it had been very memorable.

 Very old family friends Allan and Lorna joined us for lunch too so we had quite a big group squeezed onto the back verandah come lunchtime.

The food was great and was followed by a few gifts and presentations.
A couple of the boys gave me Geelong items. (How did they know?) Chris blew me away by giving me an artist’s easel, something I’ve long wanted. Vicki had found some very cool Scrabble letter canvasses and personalised them with her birthday message. Pop gave me a Blu-Ray DVD player! And Mum presented me with the end results of many months of work, the afore-mentioned birthday book. (Thank you to any of my readers who contributed to the book, it is very special and affirming.)
There was another surprise: Vicki played a video message on her laptop recorded by my great mate Paul in San Diego. He recounted how we had met in Cairns in our early 20s and how our lives have inter-twined through a series of visits and adventures over the proceeding 30 years. Our youngest son Paul is named after him. By the time his message finished I was in tears.
Imagine that? And there were a few more before the day was done.

Because of the unique and eclectic nature of the group who were gathered, I took the opportunity to introduce everyone and describe the background and circumstances of my relationship with each of them. It gave me a chance to reminisce, tell some stories, acknowledge people for the part they have played in my life and thank them for being there. It went on for a while and I shed more tears but no-one seemed to mind. Now that I’m half a century old perhaps people are more indulgent of me! It seemed a good and appropriate way to formalise the celebration.

The last act was provided by Alex who pulled out a pink guitar and sang a song for me, something he has done at many of the special events and significant moments of my life over the last 30 years since we met at Thornlie Church of Christ. Al has been a constant in our lives, our kids have grown up with him as a special presence and in turn we have offered him love and hospitality whenever we could. His gift of music has provided a soundtrack throughout our friendship.

The next thing on the agenda was a little bit left-field: a Skype hook-up to stage the mid-season draft of the CFFL!! A frantic 45 minutes of footy based banter, aborted trade deals and semi-informed selections occurring on either side of the country with four of us crowded around the computer in my study and a room full of mates/coaches gathered in the hills of Perth.
Time was very pressing due to the fact that we needed to get going to the footy in Melbourne by 4.30pm.

I had hired a Coaster bus from work for the weekend and we all piled aboard that and headed up the Princes Freeway on our way to the MCG. I even managed to get Jordy to come with us. It is something of an anomaly in the Holt Press family but Jordy doesn’t like football so the fact that he came in my honour was pretty cool.

The 14 of us found seats near the wing in the Olympic stand of the MCG and were joined by Cameron and his mate Dave and kids. It was the first game of Aussie Rules footy Joshua and Eleanor had ever been to so some explanations were required. I don’t remember many of the specifics and details of the game apart from the important fact that the Cats won, another birthday present. I love going to the footy but it was even more fun than usual to have a group of friends and family there to share the experience. Even St Steve and Chris, the only St Kilda fans seemed to enjoy the night.

After the game we piled back into the bus and headed home to Ocean Grove, dropping Mum, Dad and Vicki off in Geelong along the way as, with all beds full at Ocean Grove, they stayed the night at Allan and Lorna’s.

A midnight feast of leftover BBQ food, a bit more footy talk and then to bed by about 1.30 concluded a great day.

On Sunday we split into two groups. Carolyn took Paul to his soccer game and a few family members went to watch him play, or tried to! They got a bit lost in Lara and only made it for the last 15 minutes of the game.

The rest of us headed back to the MCG and another footy game, between Melbourne and Fremantle. Sadly the Dockers decided not to show up and were thrashed by the Demons. After the game we dropped Steve Grant and Jordan off so that they could catch their flights home to Perth. It was sad to say goodbye and I thanked them profusely for coming.

Home again to Ocean Grove and a hilarious game of Balderdash to conclude the evening.

Early Monday morning I took Birchy to Avalon airport but the volcanic ash cloud meant his flight was cancelled so he joined us for lunch with Joshua and Eleanor in Geelong.  He flew out later that afternoon.
All good things come to an end and I had to go back to work after lunch!!
Mum took Joshua for a drive down the Great Ocean Road in the afternoon and he and Eleanor flew home to America early Tuesday morning. Their presence for the weekend was like an extra layer of special icing on what was already a very sweet birthday cake.

Alan flew home that night. Chris left on Tuesday morning although her flight too was cancelled and she spent another night in Melbourne with family.

Zachariah was supposed to fly home Monday night but managed to miss his flight. The subsequent flight was cancelled so he ended up spending two extra nights with us, which was fine by me. Thankfully he has an understanding boss.

My actual birthday was Tuesday and I had arranged a shift swap so that I could finish earlier and we could go out for dinner that night. By then things were supposed to be winding down! So I thought!
Mum, Dad, Vicki, Carolyn, Sophie, Paul Alex and I walked into a lovely restaurant in Barwon Heads and I got another stunning surprise! Sitting at the table was my dear friend Sally and her husband Warren with their son Callum!
I was gob-smacked and blown away all over again! Sally had been one of the people who had told me she couldn’t make it and enjoyed telling me how proud she was of herself for fooling me because of the disappointment she sensed in my voice at the time! My scheming mother had been in on this secret too and was glowing with satisfaction at yet another successful undercover plot! It was fantastic to see them and have them share in my now very very special birthday!
Sally and I met at a creative writing and drama camp in 1979 when we were both in year 12 at high school. We became great friends and have many many special memories of adventures and good times shared together. I am pleased that Paul and Callum get along really well and I hope they may continue the family friendship into a second generation.
I had been blind-sided again but was thoroughly delighted regardless of my naiveté. We all had a beautiful meal which finally consummated my birthday.

I told everyone over the weekend that it was far and away the best birthday I’ve ever had. It was certainly the most memorable, not to mention the most elongated!

Finally, let me again say a huge thank you to everyone who was a part of it, either in person or via my birthday book, and thank you for your love and friendship over some or all of the last 50 years.

Love Marcus

PS Sorry if I got any details wrong, my memories were a little hazy on a few things. I blame my age!

Friday, July 08, 2011

50th Birthday Weekend Part One

50th Birthday Weekend

NB. I have taken a long time to get around to blogging about this because I really wanted to do a good job on it and do justice to what turned out to be a fantastic event. Consequently, it will be quite a long post. No apologies though, it was worth every word. I will add pictures as soon as I can.

Several months ago I sent out a tentative invitation to a small group of family and close friends inviting them to join me in celebrating my 50th birthday, June 21 2011.
Having moved to Victoria in October and knowing that the majority of invitees live in WA, SA and Qld, I was not expecting a big response. In fact I wasn’t very hopeful at all but 50 is a “special” birthday and I figured I should at least put it out there. The plan was to make it a footy, friends and family weekend on the 17-19 June. We would host people who were able to come, have a BBQ lunch on the Saturday as the main “celebration” and all go to the footy at the MCG on Saturday night to see Geelong play St Kilda.

One of my mates, Cam, a colleague from school chaplaincy days was already going to be in Melbourne for a conference in the week preceding so when he said he would stay on for an extra day and join me for the footy I knew I had at least one guest for the occasion.

I was not prepared for what happened next and that was to become a recurring theme!

Another mate, Grant “Collo” Collins said he was coming and that Tiger Airlines had a really great fare available. We weren’t to know the troubles that would engulf Tiger at that stage and Collo sent out an email to all my CFFL (Chaplains Fantasy Footy League) mates encouraging them to join the party.

Next on board was St Steve, so named because he is truly saintly in his role as CFFL Commissioner and because he is a St Kilda tragic. The Cats v Saints game was all the incentive he needed.

Then Birchy said he was coming. He’s both an ex-chaplain and ex-CFFL coach and one of my closest friends, having spent the last few Summers together on team at Augusta Beach Mission.

By now I was getting very excited. The response was way beyond my hopes and although a few people said that much as they’d love to come they just wouldn’t be able to, there were still more positive RSVP’s to come.

Chris, my friend and former youth work colleague who lives in Esperance signed on. Chris has a bit of an identity crisis when it comes to football. She purports to be a West Coast fan but interestingly in recent seasons has declared her love for the Saints. I’m not going so far as to label her a fair-weather fan but…!
In her defence Chris was actually at the MCG for the famous 1966 Grand Final to witness St Kilda’s only ever premiership so her Saints credentials are bona fide but she does love to party on with the Chardonnay set now that she lives in WA. We love talking footy and stirring one another up so I was rapt to hear she was coming.

As soon as Alex heard about the event he made plans to be there although, with Alex, making plans and following them through are not always the same thing. However, he assured me he was coming and my delight and expectation continued to grow.

On the family front the first to RSVP was Mum. I always knew she would be there but she seemed even more excited about it than normal and asked unusual questions about the plans and arrangements. I would only discover why later. Mum actually arrived 6 weeks before my birthday and enjoyed several visits and excursions of her own with family and friends around the eastern states in the lead-up to the event including meeting up with her closest friend from school whom she hadn’t seen in over 40 years! She tracked her down via FaceBook and they had a lovely couple of days catching up, picking up as if they’d never been apart!
Mum had also been busy working away behind the scenes on a special project, putting together a Birthday Book for me containing messages from friends and family from around the country and beyond.

My sister Vicki was coming from South Australia which shamed me a little bit because even though I was in SA when she turned 50 I wasn’t able to be there for her birthday party as I was running a footy trip for a group of kids from Busselton at the time and had my hands full.

My older brother Alan (Big Brother the Accountant) surprised me with the news that he was coming. I say surprised only because I had tried for years to get him to join me for a footy weekend to Melbourne when I lived in WA and he had never taken up the offer. Again, I was rapt to hear he would be joining me for the occasion.

My younger brother Bruce was not able to make it but we did share a special phone call on the day which really touched me as did the things he wrote in my birthday book.

The final WA guests on the RSVP list were very special, being our sons Zachariah (The Heir) and Jordan (Spike). Carolyn (Mrs Holt Press)  really misses everything and everyone from WA and especially feels the distance from the boys now that the rest of the family are living in Victoria.

The last of the known guests was my Dad. I was quite worried that Pop wouldn’t make it because of a recent episode of Bell’s Palsy which has had a serious impact on his health, particularly his eye and mouth, making all sorts of everyday things liking seeing, eating and drinking quite challenging, not to mention driving. Because of these limitations he decided to fly down from Queensland and hire a car to get around in once he got here.

There was quite a bit to organise in readiness for the weekend which was done against the backdrop of Carolyn’s Dad’s on-going health problems and the need for her to be available for him.

To be continued