60 in 60 #16 Gary
I am reflecting on the last 60 years, and writing 60 blog posts in 60 days. 30 about people and 30 about events, places, experiences and entities.
At Pop's 80th birthday 2016
At Pop's 80th birthday 2016
Pop told me once that a man is fortunate if he has 3-4 really good friends in his life. I have been greatly blessed with many close friendships. Some have come and gone, some have been for a brief season, and some have endured many many years. I sometimes add them up in my mind and each time I do I feel tremendous gratitude and love for my mates. They have added so much to my life and I hope I have added something in return along the way.
My oldest mate, as in the one I have known the longest, is Gary Davies, we have literally known one another our whole lives. In fact we are second generation mates because his Dad, Allan and my Dad, Peter were best mates, having met when they were teenagers knocking around Preston and Northcote in the fifties.
Like the McQuinns, the Davies were cousins not by blood but by choice. Our Dads grew up together, got their first cars together, went rabbiting together, played footy together, were in Gold Cross Golf Club together and got engaged and married together so naturally, when they started families, we grew up together.
I’m not sure what my earliest memory of Gary is, he's always been in my life, having been born about a month before me. He recently told me that he remembers playing his first ever game of Snakes and Ladders at our place when we were kids living in Geelong. Family visits, BBQs, footy games and lots of kids all playing happily together typified life in the sixties but it was in our late teenage years that my bond with Gary really developed.
When I finished school and started travelling, hitch-hiking around the country, I gravitated back to Victoria and stayed with Nan and Pa in Northcote. Gary and I started spending a lot of time together, often at the Northcote Bowling Alley. His mates were amazed that I had hitch-hiked from Perth and I almost had them believing I had roller-skated across the Nullabor! For a couple of months I had a job promoting The Pancake Parlour which involved roller-skating around the city in Melbourne giving out vouchers for free hot chocolate. I gave one to Elton John and Renata one night as they came out of one of Melbourne’s theatres.
I remember giving Gary relationship advice regarding his girlfriend at the time!
In 1980 and 1981 I saw Geelong lose successive preliminary Finals against Collingwood at Waverley. Gary is a life-long Richmond fan and in 1980 the Tigers played Collingwood in the VFL Grand Final. Gary managed to secure a couple of tickets to the game for us. I flirted with the idea of reselling them for the going rate of $250 but thankfully Gaz talked me out of it and we went to the game, my first Grand Final. It was a great day for the yellow and black as they thumped the hapless Magpies by 81 points and Kevin “Hungry” Bartlett kicked 7 goals. Sharing in the joy of the victory helped cement our friendship and in subsequent years, footy has been a catalyst that further strengthened the bond.
Again following in our fathers’ footsteps we played golf together a bit at Yarra Bend golf course although in later years Gary suffered a severe back injury which put an end to golf for him.
I was around when Gary first met Christine but I was away overseas when they got married.
A couple of years later Gary was at my marriage to Carolyn in Geelong and I remember long talks about life, love and my new-found faith before and after the wedding.
They lived in Melbourne and we were living in Perth so our contact was infrequent over the next thirty years but it was punctuated by my many trips to Melbourne for the footy. I would pick out a round of decent games, hunt down cheap airfares and fly to Melbourne on a Friday, go to 4-5 games and fly home again on a Sunday night. For many of those trips I stayed with Gary at their place in Doreen. We usually ended up talking for hours late into the night. We shared our similar stories and struggles including battles with mental health. He always made me feel at home but I do remember one visit where I felt that twinge of discomfort you get when you sense maybe you’ve overstayed your welcome. I started to tell him how I was feeling and he cut me off and said, “I love it when you come and stay, I love it”. I instantly relaxed. Our friendship has that lovely comfortable sense of being able to pick up where we left off regardless of how long it is since we saw one another.
Allan started a business called Pyramid Chemicals and Gary went to work for him, becoming his right-hand man and eventually his successor when Allan and Jeanette retired to Yarrawonga. Sadly Allan died only a few years later but Jeanette is still there and I’ve had a few lovely visits with her over the years. Gary has maintained and grown the business but it has taken huge amounts of his time and effort and ultimately his health has suffered because of it, both physically and mentally.
Pop with Gary's Mum Jeanette on our last road trip
When we moved back to Victoria in 2011 it opened the way for us to see one another a lot more and fostered the beginning of a third generation of Holt-Davies mateship through our sons Paul and Nathan.
I was shocked a few years later when Gaz rang to tell me that he and Christine had broken up. He has had a hard time dealing with his marriage break-up and we have spent many hours on the phone and together talking about it, about his sadness and grief, the impact on his mental health and well-being and the complexities of trying to move on when so much of his life was wrapped up in his marriage and family and the family business. It has taken several years for him to be able to begin moving on with his life.
One thing that has helped is having him come down and stay with us a for a weekend when we can drag him away from work. He feels a great deal of responsibility to the business and particularly the employees and he’s done a great job working through some major challenges and getting it back into profit.
He gets along really well with Carolyn which makes his time with us even more comfortable and enjoyable. I get him to a movie or for pizza at the beach just to help him de-stress and take some time for himself. Gaz loves to talk and Carolyn is a great listener so they complement each other very well. Each time he comes to stay he tells us it really helps him to relax, to feel cared for and heard and, just as he affirmed my visits back in the day, I tell him that I love it when he comes to stay.
We don’t get to as many footy games together as I’d like but there is nothing more certain than that I will receive a text saying Go Tigers whenever Richmond are playing a big game. Sure enough the first message I got today before the Geelong v Richmond game was from Gaz, although he was pretty quiet once the Cats got on top. He’s enjoyed the last four years of Tiger dominance but as another mate said, “Don’t be bitter that it’s over, just be glad that it happened”.
I really appreciated having him around when Pop died and I wish I had been around for him when his Dad died. I see so much of Allan in him, especially now as we’ve both gotten older.
He works bloody hard, he’s faithful and loyal, he’s a deep thinker who really wants to understand what’s happening and to nut out his problems and concerns. He’s a loving and supportive dad to his three kids and to his newly arrived grandkids.
We both recently celebrated our 60th birthdays and reaffirmed our friendship and our love for each other. He’s my oldest mate. He’s a fantastic bloke and I love him dearly.
PS. Go Cats