From the Blog

A wandering minstrel, I

It’s funny that I am often asked what I do with my time now that I’m retired. My answer is that I seem to be busier now than when I was working! Last week certainly proved that. Shall I detail it for you?

Monday was recovery day after the Motostars Final at Port Macquarie (35 races in two days) followed by a non-stop 6.5 hour drive home meant that I was pretty much of a write-off for the day.

On Tuesday I delivered the van out to Daniel at Perspective Motor Trimming for the long-awaited fitout. Then it was back home to help with some shopping chores. After lunch I headed off early to Wonoona so that I would have time to drop Helena in town to do some business and get to Marco Polo Nursing home in time for my concert with Elwyn and gang at 1400. However, my arrival that the nursing home was greeted with some chagrin as they did not appear to have us booked on their schedule. 🙁 A quick phone call from the front office revealed that I was, in fact, supposed to be at Marco Polo at Unanderra, about 25 minutes drive away. I’m not saying that I exceeded the speed limit to get there in time but I went pretty close to it (“NO, officer, I wasn’t speeding but I passed a lot of cars who were”). The mix-up was purely because I knew that the Wonoona concert was first but I didn’t remember that it had been on LAST Wednesday when I was on the road to Port and so I had to miss it.

I arrived in time to hear the guys singing the second song of the first bracket. As unobtrusively as possible (it ISN’T possible) I unpacked and got myself set up in time to chime in on the fourth and last song of the first set (of course my kind and thoughtful friends didn’t razz me about this at all – NOT). Fortunately I took my battery-powered amp so it made setting up a great deal easier. However, as it was the first time that I had actually USED it (Father’s Day present) I had no idea what the settings should be so it was all guesswork. Thankfully Darren got it adjusted right before it was time for me to do my set later.

I had settled down enough to do my set and was pretty happy with how it went. I sang Charlie Pride’s “Crystal Chandeliers”, Jimmy Buffett’s “He went to Paris” and John Denver’s “Leaving on a jet plane” All were well received.

Tuesday night was coffee night in town and that was fun as it always is.

Then on Wednesday it was on the road early for Canberra (about a two and a half hour drive). Helena had booked in to do an art course at Floriade and I busied myself while she did that with a meeting with Chris, my WordPress and blogging guru. I am working on incorporating a PodCast element on the site so that I can do new interviews as well as air the dozens of old ones that I have done over the last 7 years – watch this space. After I picked Helena up at Regatta Point, we headed home via Lyneham to chat with Grubastini and check on the progress of my Gold Wing resto. Pleased to say that it is rocking along although Greg was very disappointed that the bike was running rough when he started it up because the motor had been running well. Half an hour after we left I received an SMS from him, “Worked out why the engine was running rough; when I removed the tank, the bracket that supports it also has the condensers on it :)” “That’ll do it.” was my reply.  So that was Wednesday.

Thursday morning and Helena went to visit a dear friend of ours who has recently lost her husband to MND, it’s always a very tough morning. I readied myself for another concert in the afternoon, this time a brand new one. My good mate, Dave Thompson, with whom I shared a room at Recruit Training in 1972, keeps close contact with the local National Servicemens’ Association and, some time ago he told me of an acquaintance there who also does nursing home concerts. Thommo suggested I ring him and we arranged for me to come along to his gig at the Illawarra Retirement Trust home at Tarrawanna, just north of Wollongong on Thursday. Gil is an interesting character as I was soon to find out. He explained that he has a pianist who plays for him since he only sings and that she was only going to be able to be at the home for half an hour. Would I like to come along and pinch-hit for him by doing the second half of the concert for him Would I what?

Gil is in his 80’s and is still an active performer. He has a magnificent tenor voice and is in excellent shape, musically speaking. It was a real delight to hear him sing all the old 20’s and 30’s songs he sings and I was thrilled when he offered up his rendition of “The Holy City” an epic tenor showpiece made famous by the singer, Richard Crooks. If you love your music, I recommend you take 3 minutes to listen to the great old song.

I always think of my dear dad when I hear this song, he loved it so much. I sang Hello my Baby, A little bitty tear, Crystal chandeliers, Blue eyes crying in the rain, Back home again, You don’t want my love, He went to Paris and finished off with Bye, bye baby. Afterwards Gil thanked me and he sure seemed to enjoy the chance to listen to someone else do the work. He must have enjoyed it because he asked me what I was doing on Friday but I had to pass since I already had another commitment. I expect that I will hear from him again and I’d like to help out again if I am needed. It was such a joy to listen to some proper old school singing.

Friday, oh, yeah, Friday. Well, for two hours or so on Friday morning we sat in the assembly hall of Dapto High School and watched the Year 12 graduation ceremony. My #1 grandson was in the graduating class and I was suitably proud to see him receive his awards. 17 years old, where HAS the time gone? Oh and it was pretty neat to sit in the same hall where I had sat for MY HSC in 1967, 51 years ago. 🙂

Then it was home to get ready for another concert. Before she passed away in July my mum was a resident at St Mary’s in Berkeley. At the time I had arranged with the Activities Director there to go and do some music for them but it just never happened. It was time to pay my dues so I headed off and did 40 minutes or so. Like the IRT home at Tarawanna, St Mary’s is not a dementia facility so there is much more audience participation. I basically did the same set as I had done at IRT but added “Side by side”, “I’m a believer”, “The marvellous toy”, and “Apple blossom time” Leanne asked me back to do another gig in December so I guess they musta liked it. 🙂

And so we come to Saturday (yesterday). Breakfast with my brother and his wife at the delightful Sublime Point Restaurant overlooking Wollongong chewed up (!) two hours and yielded the great sight of their very old warratah bush in full bloom at the foot of the stairs. The food and the company was great as well.

Home to finally do some chores, my monthly solar battery check and helping with some stuff in the garden. I had a call from Daniel today to say that the van will be ready to pick up tomorrow and a call from Gary at Oak Flats Motorcycles to say that Scooter will be ready for pickup on Tuesday. As big Dazza used to say, “It’s all happening.”

So, if you think that us retired guys sit around all day doing nothing, I can assure you we don’t. As the old joke goes, My wife asked me what was I going to do today and I told her, nothing. “But that’s what you were doing yesterday,” she said, “Well,” I replied, “I haven’t finished yet.”