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John met up with Ian Barnes in London in August 2011
I was a member of a select group who completed 6th Year in 1968 and then decided to repeat in 1969. I had missed out on a cadetship with Qantas as a pilot but had been told that I was close and should reapply in 12 months time. What else to do but go back to school. Within the first week back I realised I had made a mistake and told Ian Deane (who was also repeating) that I wasn't even going to get the text books and I was off to join the Public Service. It was only many years later that I heard that Ian had also left early but at least he lasted a term or so!
I reapplied for Qantas at the end of 1969 and was successful but towards the end of my training I (along with 180 pilots and cadets) was told I was to be retrenched and good luck. Actually, Qantas made a hard decision for me as I was having serious misgivings about spending the rest of my life leading a somewhat weird life, being away from home a lot which just wasn't me. I rejoined the Public Service at the end of 1971 with a Commercial Pilot's licence which proved to be not worth very much to someone who was going to spend the next 35 years or so in government. Nevertheless, I did fly occasionally for the next 10 years but found I was just getting rusty as it really was just occasionally.
I spent the next 35 years in the government, having some great jobs and for the most part really enjoying what I did. I grabbed opportunities to work around Australia as well as in Papua New Guinea and South Africa. My last 16 years at work were in Parliament House which gave me great insights into our political masters. What an eye opener!
I met Judi in 1966 and we're still happily together (pathetic, I know!). She went to Narrabundah High School and I credit David Frencham and Ian Cook for introducing us. The Methodist Cabaret is the source of many fond memories for me......and the Tangerine Teapot if you wanted to get away somewhere quiet with dim lights. We've got 4 kids who are all over the place these days. Watching the Telopea 68 page and having a son in London resulted in us having a long lunch with Ian Barnes a few months ago. If any of you are in doubt, let me assure you that Inky is still the same bloke. The conversation started up where it left off in 1968. He assures me we talked at Gunther Ploy's Blue Beat in Kingston in the middle of the night once but I don't recall it. Ploy was known for serving alcohol that was off! I'm so pleased that Ian will be at the reunion.
We've also had dinner with Barry Ballard in Melbourne earlier in the year and again, the conversation started where it left off all those years ago. I reminded Barry that we were at his wedding and that Probyn Steer was in the wedding party. There's a prize for anyone who can work that one out! Barry is still married to Gwen.
Since retirement in 2006, Judi and I have been spending about 6 months of the year in Central Australia with her work as a Flight Nurse with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. We go to Alice Springs twice a year where I spend my days doing meaningful stuff while she works hard. As Ian Barnes said of his work, someone has to do it! If anyone is in the area, please contact us through the RFDS.
In between work and family stuff, I also have had a wonderful hobby of playing music. I had piano lessons as a kid but was never much good at it and as soon as I could afford a guitar that was it. I can clearly remember John Bourchier teaching me to play Spicks and Specks on the piano (I've almost mastered it now, John), and I've still got words and chords for a number of songs in Bill Andrews' hand writing (You and me and the rain on the roof by the Lovin' Spoonful - was Bill trying to tell me something?). I've also still got stuff in Michael Burns' handwriting that he did for me in class and I've also still got a number of pieces of sheet music with Jim Street's handwriting on it. Jim and I were going to rule the world.
I didn't get serious about music until I was in my late twenties. Judi bought me a guitar and it sort of coincided with me having a conversation with a few mates including Stan Bakker late one night at Easts Rugby Club after many beers. To cut a long story short things went from there and I've played in bands ever since. These days it is only about a dozen gigs a year as most of us are retired now (my drummer is 65!) and it's hard to all be in one place at the same time but I still pinch myself that as a fat, bald bloke in his 40's and 50's I was playing in places like the Sydney Convention Centre, The Rooty Hill RSL (!!!), the Melbourne Entertainment Centre, the Launceston Casino as well as all the large and small venues in Canberra. Bizarre, really, that during the day I was working in Parliament House but at night I was out in dens of iniquity and getting paid for it. I should add that after all these years I'm still not much of a musician but I've had the good fortune of playing with some great ones.
Again, I'm really looking forward to the reunion (and I'm not really a reunion type of person) so I can catch up with old friends. I still have a close circle who I see when in Canberra. There's nothing I like more than going down to Griffith Oval during the footy season and watching Easts play (they occasionally have a win which makes it better) with a few mates. What's that saying, "The older we get, the better we were". I've also been to a couple of get-togethers at Brett's place since the Telopea 68 thing got going and it's wonderful to meet up with old friends. If anyone is prevaricating about the reunion, please don't as I'm sure it'll be great fun.