Saturday, July 13, 2013

...comes great responsibility

Something very special happened yesterday, I became a grandfather for the first time.  I didn't really expect the depth of emotion that came with knowing that the baton passes again and that new life carries on the unbroken chain that reached back to that man who stood on the shores of Lake Tanganyika 60,000 years ago.   He whose descendants spread around the world with the sons of his sons passing on that YDNA right down to young Parker Alexander Joyce yesterday.

I was unprepared for the overwhelming feeling of love as I held my Grandson for the first time and realised that for me another entirely new chapter in life is beginning.  

Welcome young man.  You don't know it yet but you have many people who love you and will look after you.  Your journey through life will be full of ups and downs but we'll do our best to make sure the ups are great and the downs don't last too long.   I don't pretend to be wise but my knowledge is yours to ask for.    I look forward to reading to you, to telling bad jokes, to the laughter and the tears.  I will be there for your first basketball game and football match, should you choose to play, I'll give whatever support a grandfather can in whatever way I can.

I joked yesterday with your Dad about your name and the connection to Peter Parker who was burdened with the wisdom from his uncle that "with great power comes great responsibility" but I realise now that it is my great responsibility to love and support you.    Not alone, but with all of those other people who will share your life and watch as you grow.

I hope I am around one day when you too become a father just like I was for your Dad.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Luckiest Country

Plenty to be grateful for on Australia Day. Let's celebrate our diversity, remember that we have a responsibility to protect the weak, look after our aged and infirm; we have the right to work hard and to accumulate wealth not just for the sake of it but because it is one symbol of success. 

But we should remember that wealth is not just reflected in money or possessions, it comes with the respect of family, friends and colleagues, with the knowledge that we live in a place where we don't need to go hungry, or sleep rough, where despite the odd harshness there is always a sunny day ahead, despite flood, the rains end, and after the fires the bush comes back. 

I am proudly descended from Irish Catholic convicts, from northern Irish Orangemen, from English blacksmiths and Scottish farmers, from Welsh Normans and before them Vikings. In this country one branch of my ancestors has been here for more than 40,000 years, and 10,000 years before that my father's fathers line was in Tanzania. My connections with this country and with people around the world are growing daily and I thank whatever God there is that I had the good fortune to be born in this land at this time. 

Thank you friends and family for your connection. Thank you to those who are absent and away from home - you know who and where you are - and know that I'm thinking of you. Let us all never forget that we are the luckiest people born in the luckiest country and hope that however we choose to celebrate that we can do it in peace for many more years to come.

Keep safe, stay true, be loved.
Happy Australia Day

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Blink of an eye 2

A long time ago now I wrote a post called "In the Blink of an Eye" where I spoke about how quickly life is seeming to pass.  A couple of weeks ago my oldest son had his engagement party and I made the following speech and make no apologies for some bad Dad Jokes.

Thankyou to everyone for attending Meg and Luke’s engagement and I want to say that this is the first formal welcome of Meg into Luke’s extended family and Lyn and Glen and Raelene and I welcome her and look forward to getting to know someone we hope will one day be the mother of our grandchildren over the years to come.

I googled engagement speeches and found that there are a few etiquettes about what format such a speech should take.  I thought about Dad jokes and thought I’d start with the story about that American actress who got stabbed overnight, Reese ummmm, Reese help me out here.  Witherspoon.  No with a knife [and there were groans].

Then I thought that I’d tell a couple of brief stories about Luke and some of my memories of the way he grew up.  

I remember very well not long after Luke was born when the nurses asked me if I’d like to give him his first bath, so I carefully wrapped one arm around his shoulders and grabbed his legs with the other hand and as I lifted him he bent in the middle and his feet kicked him in the head.  Even then he looked at me and gave me that WTF expression.

It’s fair to say that Luke’s driving ability is a bit scary.  I gave him his first lesson at Narooma in our Starwagon van and he planted his foot on the accelerator and took his hand off the break and we headed, wheels spinning towards a ditch.  I had to pull the hand break on quickly to save us.

In 2001 I was in the States at a conference and Lyn let Luke drive to the airport to pick me up.  I got a running commentary from Erin all the way home – that was where Luke side swiped a car, that was where he mounted a gutter, that was where he nearly hit Evan xxxxxx.  Poor Evan waved to Luke as he was turning the corner and leaving the wheel on full lock he took one hand off to wave back and started heading straight towards him.   I never saw Evan again.  I don’t know if he kept running after his near brush with death or whether everytime he saw us coming down the street he dove behind a bush or letter box or wheelie bin to make sure Luke never waved at him again.    

Then there is the story about the car accident Luke had recently where he ran up someones bum, and anyone who has driven with Luke would know that is not out of the question.  Both cars pulled over and Luke was surprised when he looked up and coming towards him he saw that the driver of the other car was a little person, a dwarf for those who are politically incorrect.  And he was fuming, smoke was coming out of his ears and he said to Luke “Ï’m not Happy” and he said “Which one are you then”.

Those of you who are Facebook friends will know that Luke is quite opinionated and doesn’t have a high degree of toleration for people he thinks are wrong and I blame that on his Prep Teacher.  One night after I got home from work and asked him what he had done at school he told me that they were learning “P”words and the teacher was asking each of the kids to give a word that started with P – there was the usual Pop, Puppy and Pear but when it got to Luke’s turn he said Pteradactyl and the teacher told him he was wrong.   He was really indignant because at that age he new about the life habits of every dinosaur that had ever lived and that’s probably why he knew this dinosaur of a father would attempt to tell some Dad jokes during a speech.

Those of you who know me know that I am the family historian and if I look back at the women in the lives of Joyce men they will tell you that we are sometimes hard to live with, untidy, lazy sometimes, hoarders and opinionated.  They need plenty of patience and tolerance to live with us.  On the upside, we are all handsome and intelligent and I have to say get far better with age.

Enough rabbiting on – I’ll finish with this.   You can plan your life but not predict it.  Much of the journey Luke and Meg are undertaking will be fantastic but there will be times when it isn’t so good.   The lot of an army wife is a difficult one sometimes, but so is life.    It has peaks and troughs.   Each and every one of you in this room are important to Luke and Meg now.   There are new friends and old, family, aunts and Uncles, cousins, siblings.   Some of you will be around to share in the successes of the relationship for the rest of your or their lives, some of you will drift on in different directions.  For those who stick for the long haul I charge you with this duty – celebrate the many good times that Meg and Luke have coming but please be there for each of them if times get tough.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wilkie or won't he

Image by Matt Golding- WA Today
And he did...sort of.   Andrew Wilkie withdrew his support for the Gillard Labor government because they failed to honour a written commitment given to him as they were scrambling to form government, that they would support mandatory precommitment in poker machine venues.  Setting aside whether that would have worked or not what really happened here?

Julia Gillard reneged on an agreement she had given him supposedly because it didn't have the required Parliamentary support.   She gave the commitment at a time when she needed his support to form government When Peter Slipper jumped ship from the Liberal Party to become Speaker in the House of Representatives therefore giving her an extra vote she no longer needed Wilkie's support.  She couldn't continue to push ahead with what he was asking because members of her own party in New South Wales and Queensland who are in marginal seats were under a lot of pressure from their local clubs not to support the legislation.  A bad look if a Prime Minister gets rolled by her own party on the floor of the House, so easier to break a promise.

And let's face it she doesn't have a problem breaking promises...."Kevin Rudd has my full support"..."there will be no carbon tax under any government I lead".   Political expediency is everything for our Julia.

And what about Andrew Wilkie.   Some will say a man of conviction, a man who stands by his principles.   This is a bloke who stood up to the Federal government over whether or not Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction or not.    I would argue that point with him because I spent a fair bit of time with a lot of Melbourne Kurdish people a number of years ago who had first hand knowledge of entire villages wiped out by chemical weapons that Saddam used on them.  So I''ve always been a bit skeptical about Andrew Wilkie's assessment of Iraqi capabilities at the time the second Gulf War began.

In this case though, Wilkie has decided that he can no longer support a government who broke a commitment they gave him.   He had no trouble supporting that same government when it broke a pre-election commitment given to the Australian people about the fact that a carbon tax wouldn't be introduced.  And that is the problem with moral high horses, you run the risk of being called a hypocrit if you don't consistently apply the same standards to all promises instead of just the ones that you want them to keep.  You cannot vote to support legislation that breaks one promise and then yell and scream about the same people breaking another one.

The sooner the next election comes the better.  Irrespective of who has the power let's hope that we don't have to put up with wacky independents with pet causes that hamstring proper decisive and honest governance.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I am judgemental

I try not to be but sometimes it happens.   For example I drive past a new build in Chantenay Parade every day and like most new builds there is a bin out on the nature strip so that the builder can get rid of the rubbish.  Now some muppet or collection of muppets has been dumping their unwanted furniture around the bin.  There are beds and mattresses, chairs, a table, an old treadmill and a couple of ancient TVs as well as boxes of general household garbage.   These idiots are showing absolutely no respect for people who are going to be their new neighbours.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Woolen Trousers, Levis and Bum Cracks

Must admit that my favourite jeans are Levi 101's.  Pulling on a pair with button up fly is like meeting an old friend.  Of course these days the waist has gotten somewhat bigger than that of my first pair circa 1974.

It was a long time before Mum agreed to let me wear denim.  She'd send me to the snow in shorts in winter and off to school in grey woollen sorts all year round but there wasn't a pair of long legged trousers to be seen anywhere in my single wardrobe at Box Hill South.  Until Form 1 that is.

That year, 1969, we had an excursion at the end of the year to the gold mining town of Maldon and I was the somewhat embarrassed wearer of the only pair of long pants I owned - brown checked woollen trousers.  At least I was warm but when everyone else is wearing jeans it was a bit hard to take.

Mum eventually realised that maybe denim wasn't so bad after all and I got a pair of Stirling jeans - the ones with the checkered flag logo and a really cool pocket on the side of the leg where you could fit a comb.  Not that I needed one because they were the years when Dad would take me up to the barbers on the corner of Middleborough and Eley Roads for a college cut.   These days it would be called a number one.

After the Stirling jeans came my first really expensive pair - Amco Heavyweights with a suede patch on the back.  Not quite Levis but I was getting there.  Of course as I got older and graduated to Lee Jeans which were bought at a mens wear store in Flinders street in the City next to Lindrums Pool Hall.  If you read this Andrew help me out here.

And as we got older the jeans were pulled down a little further exposing both the few pubic hairs we had at the front and the bum crack at the back - unless Mum was around of course.

Mid to late 70's the fashion changes again.  The legs got wider and Juz Jeans and Staggers were the brand of choice.  I bought a pair of Staggers that were so tight I could barely move.  The sales girl told me they would stretch but after a couple of wears I gave them to my sister Karen because my voice kept getting higher.

Another thing I remember about the jeans of Burwood High days were that for a while there is was really cool to wear them as low down as possible, showing a few pubic hairs if you had them or exposing the bum crack if you didn't.  Of course we had graduated from y fronts to jockettes in those days which were pretty brief and not big enough to show above the waist of the jeans anyway.

Jeans are still my trouser of choice these days and over the years I've gone through the plain navy denim, light blue denim, brown denim and white denim.  The there were the acid wash and stone washed versions in black or navy mostly with legs that varied from stove pipe to wide flares.  But through all that the 501's have remained the favourite.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Less than 33 days

Not sure who you are but if you thought it might have been a good idea to tell my daughters about my 33 Days post, it wasn't.   Apparently I shouldn't be guilt tripping them because they are very busy and I now live too far away for them to be able to find the time to visit once a month.  So I stopped trying to ring them once a week to see how they are and I have no intention of guilt tripping them any more.   So I appreciate that you may have thought you were doing the right thing by me but to be honest, please don't do it again.  It's not worth my grief and as I was told this isn't about me anyway.   They'll get around to contacting me sooner or later.  Maybe.

Now onto things that are about me.  I had a lump come up on the palm of my left hand a few weeks back.  The doctor thought it was a ganglion cyst but sent me off for an ultrasound which pointed to it being a possible tumor.   I saw a surgeon had it removed and it turned out to be a ganglion cyst which I am happy about.

My lady had a bad back, saw a doctor who told her that she should go home take some panadol and he would refer her to a counselor because she was depressed.   She got a second opinion and that doctor sent her off for an MRI and on getting the results told her to get straight to hospital because she needed an emergency operation to remover the pressure on the nerves in her spinal cord or risk becoming a paraplegic.   She was admitted that day, operated on the next and sent home the day after that.  Now more than three weeks into an initial 6 week convalescence she is pain free if still unable to move totally freely and improving every day.

Which brings me to my next point and the fact that we have both started a Light and Easy diet.  Which I'm finding Light and Difficult having cut my food intake by half.  Still I have dropped from 92 kgs, last time I gave blood a month ago to 87.9 kg at the end of the first week of the diet and 84.6 kg when I weighed myself this morning at the end of the second week.   That bit of a pot belly that men of a certain age get has already shrunk significantly and I can stand in a certain place now and see my naughty bits.   That has to be good I think.    The thought of a leg of lamb or a whole roast chicken is still pretty good though.

My first Sunday breakfast on the diet and I had one egg and even that had a sad face.   And then I remember how many people in this world do actually go to bed genuinely hungry every day and I realise once again how lucky I really am.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It was 30 years ago today....

..that I entered the Police Academy in Glen Waverley and commenced a journey that was to last 16 years.  This Friday night I am attending a reunion of Squads 22 and 23 of 1981 and of the 50 who walked in that day, fourteen are left in the job.  Of those 9 are attending the reunion together with myself and one other.  I'm looking forward to it.

And here's a few memories

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


In 2001 I was the Executive Officer of the Victorian Basketball League and at the end of each season our Champion and Runner-up in both men and women came together with the winners of other Leagues to compete in the Australian Basketball Championships to determine who was the best team in the country.  It was September and on the Tuesday prior to the weekend of the Championships the date was one that would go down as one of the most infamous in history, September 11.   That same week Ansett Airlines here in Australia collapsed and that meant that the teams could not get to Bendigo in regional Victoria to compete.

The Championships were cancelled that year and there was a major hue and cry from many people about what a tragedy it was.  I wrote an article for the VBL website that week and said in part that there were thousands of people who would go to bed that night never seeing their mother, father, son, daughter, husband and wife again.   I told people to get a grip and understand what true tragedy was and it wasn't about the cancellation of basketball games.

In the past couple of days we've seen another airline, Qantas shut down for a few days and the ranting and raving of people stranded around the world and unable to get home.  There was a photo of a bloke in the Sunday Herald Sun who refused to give his name but who was displaying such anger and hatred in his expression that it looked as if he could have gotten hold of Qantas CEO Alan Joyce that he would have ripped his throat out.

And at the same time that the Qantas Board made the decision to ground the airline on Saturday there were a company of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan who were being slaughtered by an Afghan soldier they had  mentored.  Three brave young Australians and an Afghan interpreter were killed and seven other Australians injured.   This act had it's genesis on that same day more than ten years ago and it sickens me that I sit here now having to write the same thing that I did back then.

I don't give a stuff about an airline going bust or being grounded.  It's an inconvenience for all those people delayed.   The sun will come up tomorrow and other planes will fly.  But again we have young wives who won't see their husbands, children without fathers, Mums and Dads who will wake to nightmare again tomorrow and the day after and the day after that.

Get some perspective people.  Understand what really matters.  RIP guys may you never be forgotten.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thirty Three Days

One of the most commonly visited pages on this blog is one I called “The Loneliness of theLong Distance Father” which was at a time shortly after my separation where my kids didn’t really want to have a lot to do with me.  

As with many things, time alone can cure some of the angst and distress that comes to most kids when their parents break up.   But whilst the pain eases for the kids perhaps so too does the desire to keep contact with both parents, or maybe it’s just the classic cats in the cradle stuff, the natural pulling away as you get older and become more independent.

We built a big house because at the time we entered into the contract we had four of the six kids we have between us that needed a place to live.   Over the months of waiting for the title to settle and the house to be built their needs changed and so we have a four bedroom house occupied by the two of us and the two furkids and in an area now far away from where the kids mostly reside.

And that’s OK, the place is there if some time in the future they need it, but there are times when I miss knowing what is happening in their lives.   It seems that unless I make a call then we don’t talk and I am left to watching facebook for updates.

Last week I asked my two daughters if they would like to set aside one Sunday evening per month, visit us for dinner and watch a movie.  I was actually hoping that maybe we would just sit around the dinner table and chat and just find out who they were loving or feuding with, what books they were reading or movies they had seen, any one of hundreds of mundane day to day things that they do.  One daughter said she heard me but it would have to wait awhile because she’s working a lot of overtime and very busy but I did find out on Facebook that she enjoyed her day at the Races and her roast dinner at her mothers in the past few days.   Daughter number two has been silent and that usually means I am in the bad books with her.

It got me thinking that if they spent 3 hours one day a month with me that would be a total of 1 and a half days a year.  If I live as long as my father (and I hope it is longer than that) then I have 22 years left and that would mean that for the rest of my life I would spend a maximum of 33 days with my kids, half of which I would probably be sleeping.

So if the remainder of my life was equivalent to an hour on a clock for every month that passes without seeing them the clock advances another two minutes and we all know that as you get older time speeds up and the 33 days will rapidly become 30 and then 20 and 5, until those last few precious minutes come in a huge rush.

And knowing all that makes me regret the times I didn’t call my own Mum and Dad other than on the special occasions.   So maybe what goes around…