Friday, 30 April 2010

A Daughter's Tribute

My friend Heidi is a champion - generous, funny and a great animator in our local community. We are lucky around here because over the years our friends, formed through the connection of our kids' local primary school, have created a few music groups. Whilst my 'day job' (that happens mostly at night) is facilitating life time memories for parents and their kids, I do also belong to a band made up of four dads who play covers at our local shops once a month. We practice in my shed from time to time. This structure is the eponymous (I love the word 'eponymous') inspiration for our band name. SHeD! In fact one of our guitarist's kids thinks my name is actually 'SHeD'! It will be a sad day when he starts calling me Bill.

Heidi is part of a group of six local mums and dads called 'Sirens' who rehearse at our friends, Nick and Clare's place - they have a studio out the back and so you can see that the pattern of eponymous band names finished on a sequence of one as Heidi's band do not practice in a siren (I promise you that I will limit the bad 'dad' jokes to only one every few blogposts!)

Sirens and SHeD and other local parents' bands get together in the shed once a year for a big party... it is an annual tradition now. We have had many memorable 'Cold August Nights', 'Rocktobers' and 'Warm November Rain' parties over the last decade.

We had a different day last Saturday - Sirens and SHeD held a 'Parents Concert' at Heidi and Tony's place... the point of difference was that the parents there were my parents, Heidi's parents and the mums, dads and aunties of a number of the band members. Heidi's thinking was that it is rare that our own parents get to hear the music we make together. At the end of the day SHeD member, Tim's dad remarked that "it was just like going to your kid's school concert except that all the kids are in their fifties!" (NB - this blogger is still way early into his forties!)

So this extraordinary gathering played and listened... SHeD played first, and not being 'age-ist' still required (as is their custom) all song requests to be sent by text message, rather than called out verbally (far more efficient). My dad hogged the request line sending in texts at a pace that would exhaust the thumbs of even the most tech-savvy Gen Y-er. We shared food in between band performances. I tried to race one of Steve's (from Sirens) kids in eating as many of the beautiful chicken drumsticks made by his γιαγιά (pronounced ya-ya', Greek for Grandmother).

"How many did you have Bill?"

"Four" I said to Steve's son, feeling pretty confident I had won.

"I stopped after six" he declared with a conquering tone.

Sirens played next. I took a seat at the back just behind my mum and dad. I love listening to the girls sing and they had some new material. Dad leaned over to mum and I heard him share an insight...

"This is not just community but its world community".

In Sirens, Clare and Nick are Macedonian, Heidi was born in England, Lisa is Irish and was born in Wales, Sandra was born here in Australia and is fourth or fifth generation and Steve is Greek. Here was the world playing for us underneath what we call the 'West Preston skies!' I got a bit of a shiver... something special was happening. The mums and dads were clearly moved.

Heidi's 'parents' concert' idea had a simultaneous inspiration that I felt honoured to witness. For many years, she has had a poem written by her mum, Bonny, in her possession. I asked Heidi and Bonny's permission if this could be the topic of today's post. Here's some background that Heidi e-mailed to me earlier this week.

'Hi Bill, ... Sadly for your blog, my mum wrote that poem while she was bored at work and that’s about all she says about it although she definitely remembers writing it and it’s more than thirty years since she wrote it. I was about sixteen when I was ferreting through mum’s dresser looking for a pair of earrings. I found the earrings but I also found the poem stuffed (literally) into a drawer. I took it and thirty years down the track I asked some of our very talented friends to put it to music for me.'

The culminating moment was Heidi singing her mum's words in a song she had recorded with Stephen from SHeD and Nick from Sirens who wrote some music to go with them.

For Bonny - it was a total surprise. Heidi sang her words and then presented her mum with a CD recording of the song. Here are the lyrics...

I’d like to weave my dearest dreams
My fondest recollections
In silks of finest gossamer
And fairy floss confections
And as the gentle breezes blow
The silks float in the air
The fairy floss melts sweetly
And all my life is there

The snow white shapes of drifting clouds
The hot sand on my toes
The multi coloured butterflies
The fragrance of a rose
The careless days of golden youth
When time ran on forever
A world of dreams like Peter Pan
In lands of Never Never

To understand the sadness
To hear my music play
To live and breathe the many things
I find so hard to say
…so hard to say

Mingled tears and laughter
Of early adolescence
When moods were black and hopeless
Or bright and effervescent
Too old to run to mother
Too young to know the ways
The struggling in-between years
So bittersweet the days

And all these things would be there
In my tapestry of dreams
Wafting in the sunlight
And drifting in moonbeams
And just to make it perfect
My daughter would be there
To sense and feel the living
That’s trembling in the air

To understand the sadness
To hear my music play
To live and breathe the many things
I find so hard to say
…so hard to say

Bonny Cox

Heidi provided a stunning moment of tribute to her mum. It was palpable to those of us lucky enough to be there, that we had experienced something beautiful... a true act of love from a daughter to her mum.

My mum sent me a text the next day... 'Thx again 4 a lovely occasion yesterday. It was very special.'

In the work I do, the focus is often on the influence a parent or mentor can have on a young person... if you are a daughter or son reading this - never doubt the power you have to make your mum or dad feel like their efforts in raising you are appreciated. Heidi - I'm proud to count you as a friend. You made the world different last Saturday, in a very good way. And Bonny, thanks for your poetry.

And to you thanks for taking the 'Time and Space' to read this!

Bill Jennings -

Wednesday, 14 April 2010


Recently I ran a Mother-Son night for a school in Adelaide. On my way to the airport in a taxi... bags have been packed the night before, feeling pretty smug - 'wow my new routine and my prepared packing list for interstate trips seems to be going smoothly', I think to myself.

Get through check-in, on my way to security and that is when I miss my mobile phone. I've got ten minutes to boarding my plane. I head back out to the taxi drop off point. The taxi is gone. I check and see if it is in the gutter - no. Then I see a man in an airport security uniform. I ask if a mobile phone has been handed in. He says "no - check at Qantas' lost property desk" he advises fairly half heartedly.

This is where Mick - the hero of that hour, that day and this blogpost steps forward. He starts instructing the security guy, "Hey ring this guy's phone!" and he asks me "What's your number?" I dictate it to the security man whilst at the same time remembering I had it on silent.

"Show me your taxi receipt", Mick asks "it will have the cab number on there, I will drive down to the cab pool and get your phone!" Everything is happening fast. I hold some suspicions at the extraordinary effort Mick is making - no question.

"I've got to be at my boarding gate in less than five minutes, it won't work... I won't be able to wait that long."

Mick produces the next solution "Here is my card - ring your phone number when you get to your destination... where are you going?"

"Adelaide" I say.

"I will talk to you on your phone in about an hour then... when do you get back?" asks Mick.


"What time?"

"About half three"

"I will be here with your phone and I will drive you home in my taxi limousine"

As I fly to Adelaide I think conspiring thoughts about Mick - 'ah, that was the catch... I'm going to be going home tomorrow in a Limmo for more than double what I would pay in a taxi... still I can't really begrudge his industriousness' I reflect, trying to think generously.

I ring from Adelaide airport. Yep Mick's got my phone.

"Look Mick - it is so nice what you have done but I can't really afford to go in a Limmo mate."

"It is the same price as a taxi - I will look after you I promise! You pay whatever you usually pay."

"I've only got cab charges Mick."

"I take cab charges - it will be no problem."

So I spend a day without my phone (now there is a topic for another posting but for now let me recommend having a 24 hour period without your phone - it is great exercise in discovering that you still can actually breathe and perform most daily tasks without a problem - try it!). I have delivered the program which went beautifully and I am on my way back.

Pick up my bags... walk out the designated place and there is Mick, waving at me next to his beautiful luxury car.

No taxi rank to wait in... my own driver in a wonderful clean car all because I accidentally left my phone behind. I take a seat in the front... there is my phone - Mick hands it to me.

"Bill, you will see that I made no calls but I did take the liberty of charging it up for you - the battery was low!"

We talk as we headed home (Mick even had my address but I was not concerned now - he had my full trust) and I hear Mick's passion for the service he offers in his business. We talk about my enterprise, how I love seeing parents and mentors sharing life memories with their kids and at the same time, creating a life memory as they speak. That gets Mick talking about his own kids, grown up... he emigrated to Australia as so many Europeans did looking for better opportunities and I can tell, here is a good dad proud of his kids... here is a good man. I am in the presence of goodness all because of my absent mindedness - this is sweet injustice!

As we arrive home, the fare is of course, as promised, nothing more than a normal fare. The final generous act is upon us... not me offering a significant tip - but Mick insistently refusing it!

"Bill, you do not live far from me... all I would ask is that you consider me to be your driver to the airport for your interstate trips... I do not want a tip, I want your business from now on."

Mick - you've got it.

How sad is it that I held Mick in suspicion... 'he's going to pinch my phone, he's going to charge me $100 to take me home' were some of my conspiracy theories.

Generosity when it is unqualified, surprises us. When offered with little expectation of reciprocity that is when it absolutely shines... if some good karma comes back, great.

Mick now has a new customer and I am a better person for experiencing his willingness to go beyond the call. He is a very good businessman but more importantly, he is a very good man.

Thanks for reading.

Bill Jennings from Time & Space

And if you want to get Mick's contact details... e-mail me

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Knocking Down the Old BBQ

We've got family friends over from Adelaide for Easter. John is a former builder and a great dad... he's originally from the US, met Eileen and moved over to Aus'. Eileen is my wife Lisa's cousin and we've got kids about the same age. We have been able to see each others' kids (all teenagers now) grow up over the years.

I am still climbing the steep J curve of handy man knowledge... at 43, I know two things: how to paint the outside of a house and my specialty - filling a skip! So we produced some rubble yesterday by knocking down an old BBQ in the corner of our back yard... this fulfilled one of our Easter catch up traditions... having a practical project around the house. One Easter I served my 'skip filling' apprenticeship at John and Eileen's house as we tidied up some branches on an overhanging tree. I loved it. My job was to jump around inside the skip and compress the branches into the smallest space.

So yesterday morning John and I picked out the demolition of the BBQ as this year's project. A couple of calls to some (more) practical mates than I and the necessary tools were procured... a bolster, a mallet and a bloody big mallet. We started. John, on the ladder, removed bricks from the top and checked that the shed that the BBQ was attached to, wouldn't actually fall down. The process started... John takes a few bricks off... I march them into the space we had made inside the shed.

Out comes Jack, my 13 year old son.

"Can I help?" asks Jack. "Actually buddy, we need some nails knocked in on that firewood, I've got around the corner... could you grab a hammer and have a go at that for a while?" He did it! half an hour later... John has got to a point where he doesn't need to be on the ladder and he calls out to Jack "Do you want have a go at this pal?" Jack is right there on the spot... up for it, wanting to help. John shows him how to let the bolster and the mallet do the work... how to tackle the brick from the side and in a few moments, it's my son handing over the bricks for me, his labourer to ferry onto the pile we're making in the shed.

John goes and gets his son Sean who has a go himself. The team swap between the sweeping of the rubble... the spading up of the rubbish and the knocking down and piling of the bricks.

It was 3-4 hour project... two dads and their teenage sons, working together. They did a great job. John and I actually sat back at the end and let them finish.

This was a small demolition project but it was also a magical mentoring construction project. You could almost feel the appreciation these young blokes had. I know my son loves being in the company of adults and here he was making a genuine adult contribution to the project... Jack getting praise from John, Sean from me. There's got to be something in all of this. Here were two young fellas launching in, complete with designer boxers sticking out the top of their jeans... just throwing themselves into some physical labour. As a dad, it is great being around John... I love the way he operates, his generous spirit. As a dad I love our Easter catch up tradition.

We knocked down a BBQ yesterday but so much more was going on.

Half the battle is being alongside your kids and having your kids alongside some good mentors.

Thanks for reading.

Bill Jennings from Time & Space.