Month: January 2015

Will Cox 44/365


It has been hard to pin Will Cox down for his chat. I get it in my head that a certain person is next and then it can take weeks to find them within an arm’s reach of their landline. He thought a chat to me via his mobile would suffice but NO! I put my foot down. It can only ever be a landline or skype chat or else the intimacy is in danger of being lost. There is also nowadays something quite mysterious for the rest of the family, seeing someone talking on a landline phone. Who else would they be speaking to but their mum or a telecommuniations company? And why are they laughing?

They are laughing because talking on a landline is so lovely. Will said to me that it would be great ringing up all your friends. He said ‘you must be calling people that you know just so much about and then learning about other parts of their life that you didn’t.’ He could have been talking about him and me. Our paths have meshed and twined over these last years but it was only when his family decamped from Apollo Bay to live nearer the city that I felt we knew each other well. And looking down my notes I said ‘you are everything that I thought you were, the family man’ (with the matinee idol looks of course!).

We talk at length about our children and the opportunities that are arising for them, the money that we pour into those opportunities and the reasons why we do it. Will’s family are very much a water-based family and his son whom they used to refer to as a harbour-rat is now surfing on a world class wave close to where they live. We drift off around lots of topics but always come back to the children, he has been a very hands-on Dad and his voice takes on a tone of incredulation when he states (as if he has just realised- it shocks him every time) that his oldest child will be flying the nest in just a couple of years.

We saw a lot of Will during a very exciting week in all our lives. He was in management for Parks Victora, and no, that doesn’t mean that he is a glorified park keeper. The National Park here covers thousands of kilometres of varied terrain and the Great Ocean Walk, which begins here in Apollo Bay, is/was under his wing. As part of a big promotion for the Great Ocean Walk (104 km of stunning coast-hugging walking track) a TV documentary was made to go out to the world. Three presenters were found to walk for the cameras. They were ‘Planetwalker’ and environmentalist John Francis, Olympic figure skater Katarina Witt and fastest Australian skier on one or two legs (fastest ever skier on one) Michael Milton (who is number 33 on this blog). Laird Hamilton, the surfer, was meant to show up too but when the surf in Hawaii became too big for him to leave, Will Cox stepped up to the mark to introduce the world to his beautiful back yard.

Will Cox 2 Will and Michael Will and KaterinaWill Cox

We talk about what a great time that was in our lives. Michael and his family stayed with us at the Aire Valley Guesthouse and some of the filming took place at the house. The TV crew and all the presenters were great to work with, although when I accidently mentioned to Katarina Witt that I used to watch England’s skating darling, Jayne Torville, skate in Nottingham, Katerina suddenly  looked like she was sucking on a lime and replied ‘Jayne Torvill is a very regular woman.’  Now when I want to cheer myself up, doing an impression of Katarina saying that sentence often works!

Will had way more than the usual 15 minutes of fame and took on the part of TV superstar like a duck to water. It was only after they had packed up their cameras and gone that we all bounced back to normality with more than a bit of a jolt. Thanks to social media he is still in touch with all the programme makers and looking back at his photos reminds me of the sense of fun that was ever present.

I’m telling you, life is short and full of joy. Call up an old friend, call up a new friend and hear your own laughter reverberate back down the landline. Just do it. At the end of our long chat Will hopes that he hasn’t come across as boring. ‘Boring?’ I reply, ‘more like life-affirming,’ and he jokily asks that I remind his wife (38/365) of that. But she knows it.


Audrey Vaughan 43/365

Audrey and her dad.

Audrey and her dad.

I used to babysit for the Vaughans. I seem to have babysat everyone! I remember in 1981 having Audrey’s small daughter on my knee watching the Bob Marley celebration concert at way past midnight. Later her husband would drive me home in his formula one car, well it felt like that, compared to my Dad he drove SO FAST!

Audrey’s husband, Martin, and my Dad were partners in the days before the word ‘partner’ winked at ‘spouse’.They were doctors at Measham Medical Unit and with that came celebrity. To add to that, Martin would put on a comic turn at the surgery Christmas party every year, he was born for stand-up, and I cannot get the memory of him wearing a leopard skin thong out of my head. Did I make that up? It must be true because I remember all the staff crying with laughter. Perhaps I could credit him with inspiring me to find a Martin of my own!

I had a long and interesting chat on the phone with Audrey and made copious notes that I find hard to do justice to in a blog post of around 600 words.  She is very enthusiastic about life and has changed direction in terms of her career and hobbies many times, always throwing herself completely into what she is doing. When we met when I was a child, she was mother of one with one on the way and a radiographer. Later she became a mother of three and a counsellor. She is an artist, she drums on an African drum in a group, she is a family tree finder, a cyclist, she has just become interested in the Quaker way of life and through all of that she has been a doctor’s wife and that in itself is a full time job!

Audrey and Martin visited us in Australia and she was the first person to encourage me to join Facebook. At the time people seemed to have very strong views about social media but Audrey put forward all the good points very well. During our 80 minute call we talk a lot about her finding her extended family because of the internet and the abject joy that she has felt from that. We also chatted about her dad, his death when she was a child, and I learned things on the phone that I hadn’t known in forty years of friendship.

I tell her that it was in her kitchen, when my dad was talking to Martin, that I found out (through eavesdropping) that my great grandfather had committed suicide when the second world war was declared; he could not live through another war. My maternal grandmother had only told my dad in the whole world, and when he realised that I had been listening in, he told me to swear to never mention it again. But with the relaxing of stigma towards these things, I did mention it when my dad was in the late stages of cancer but by then he couldn’t remember.

She told me  that she is enjoying discovering all about the Quakers. She likes the way that the Quakers hold people in the light, instead of praying for help for them in the conventional way. She said that she took a bit of inspiration from my blog and is taking one photo of light every day. She comments on my blog being an artistic process; you make a start, you can only plan so far, and as it progresses you come across different aspects that you hadn’t expected and you have to modify your ideas to accommodate the trips and the turns.

I hadn’t planned to spend so long phoning my friends. It isn’t going to happen in a year because I can’t race through all these phone calls and not expect them to have some sort of effect on me. I really need time between each one, so far it’s been too enjoyable to rush.

Audrey and Martin Andrew, baby Sarah and Jonathon, open the Church Fete, Swepstone,  with the vicar on the left (it sounds like the beginning of one of Martin's jokes!)

Audrey and Martin Andrew, baby Sarah and Jonathon, open the Church Fete, Swepstone, with the vicar on the left (it sounds like the beginning of one of Martin’s jokes!)

James Ashley Harriman 42/365

I wanted a memorable reunion for number 42, it’s one of my favourite numbers.

I tried to call several people but things, like Christmas, got in the way. I stopped pushing and felt perhaps that 42 would happen in its own time.

And it did. I put out a post asking for a friend to volunteer and when James responded I knew that this was the one!

James first came into my life when he was about four and I was seven. We lived in neighbouring villages, he was the youngest of three boys and I was the youngest of three girls. We had very similar parents, sensible siblings, all upstanding members of the community but we weren’t about to let that stand in the way of our own rebelliousness.

When he picked up the phone he said he had been dreading this moment and I whooped with delight that his voice hadn’t changed a bit. He reminds me that we last spoke 23 years ago when I walked past him in Brisbane. I was on a  very late gap year in Australia, he was working in construction and when we saw each other, we nodded and  said ‘Ay up’ as if we were in Measham. Then we looked back and laughed, a lot. I remembered that I had a photo of that chance meeting and was pleased as I could only ever remember having evidence of our friendship on my dad’s cine films.

James harriman Bog roll

So there we are in Brisbane in the days before selfie sticks and here we are ( this will shock him) in 1986 in a charity race in Ashby de la Zouch. I found this photo as I was looking for the Brisbane shot. The race was called the Bog Roll and we had to wear fancy dress and push a toilet round a course around the town. We were dressed as fitness fanatics and James just joined in! The winners won with their toilet in a shopping trolley, such a good idea, so light!

James and I talked for 80 minutes about everything that mattered. I urge you all to pick up your landlines and ring up your childhood friends. You will talk about each other’s bikes, the paths and lay-bys near your homes, your unfathomable siblings, your friends in common, Sunday school, the laughs, your streaks and your perms, your mum and your dad, how you fell into what you’re doing and when you last went home. Do it! There will only ever be smiling.

James is still in Brisbane and his parents live not far away. I remember them well and their red setter too. I ask him whether he has any children, it’s hard to picture the twiggy, smirking, wide eyed and great fun boy from the village next door as a dad. He has four children and his daughter is called Annabel. I am shocked and flattered but then I remember that my son is James.