John Bourchier

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John Bourchier

Not a day goes by that I don’t appreciate the education I had.  The stuff I draw on every day – an ear for language and English grammar, enough bits of history and geography to give some context to the chaos of world events, a sense of what cultural diversity is and a modicum of curiosity about this amazing universe.  Not so much about vectors, valencies, calculus and corollaries.  But at least I know how to spell them.

But there was a subtext to my education which I learned too well, something which ultimately proved to be false.  Something that was the veil through which everything else was seen, the ‘sine qua non’ (thank you Mr Barbour) which held everything else together - more than religion, family, country, love, surfing, hockey, friendship or even music.  I learned that the meaning of life was to do well in the HSC.

Nevermind the existential vacuum of the outsider in Albert Camus’ work, the life and death challenges faced by King Lear and Macbeth, the distractions of my troublesome sexual emerging, acne and never-to-be-forthcoming growth spurt, agonising piano lessons and annoying sisters.  I knew the meaning of life.  But this was a two edged sword – do well and live happily ever after, do poorly and annihilation awaits.

Well, I did well in the HSC.  But at a cost.  For the next three decades at least, my anxiety dream was that it came to HSC exam time and I found I had an exam in a subject I had forgotten I was enrolled in and had done no work for in two years!!  AAARRRGH!!  O well, it was only a dream, a legacy from the most stressful time in my life.

And it left me with the choice – what do I do now?  More of the same – off to the ANU to study Economics but more importantly, discover girls and booze and rock’n’roll.  Did just enough to graduate and get a job in the Bureau of Census and Statistics.  My work there felt meaningless and the longer I stayed the more meaningless it became.  In 1975 I took leave without pay and headed off in my HQ panel van to discover Australia and myself.  Not necessarily in that order.  That was a great trip – I picked sultanas in Robinvale – working for a grower who had tried out for Richmond, my team.  I worked as a labourer in Perth ( builder’s and plasterer’s), and started to get a taste of my future career – trying to help desperates on the streets of Perth.  I wrote my resignation letter on Bunbury beach.

I also travelled to Albany and stayed for a couple of weeks I think with Brett and Jenny who made me feel so welcome and included.  I remember Brett playing with great gusto in The Dog Rock Bushband at the legendary Sunday Session – an institution in WA at the time.
I came back to Canberra and worked in mum and dad’s shop in time to be in town for the ‘dismissal’.  I started hanging with an older guy from the hockey club who turned me on to the philosophy of anarchism which led me to want to do social work with the idea of helping people become autonomous and that led me back to WA to study it.

I enjoyed the course and my first job was with the state government Alcohol and Drug Authority and I’ve stayed in that field ever since.  A fair bit of the time was in the corrections ‘system’ (a very tough gig) and doing some very satisfying work in the courts.  Currently I’m a phone counsellor and loving it. 

I married in the 80’s and we had a girl and a boy and the marriage ended in 96.  In 98 I met Hermina and my life opened up in a myriad of ways I would never have imagined.  For example, for a number of years we had a big American Indian tipi in the backyard and Hermina held monthly full moon ceremonies there.  I was the spiritual labourer or psychic roadie and I’ve got the t shirt to prove it.  We were married in the tipi in October 2003 and it was a stunning event.  We had it opened up like a big spinnaker and if there had been a breeze it would have taken off like one.  But the gods smiled and held their breath and all was still and warm.  It was awesome. I’ll be over for the reunion on our anniversary this year.

And in about 2000 Hermina encouraged me to have a crack at comedy and that has been an amazing journey to not very far.  But when you get what is known in the business as a ‘big laugh’, it is like riding a big wave of goodwill energy and it keeps you coming back for more…J.  I no complain.

Really looking forward to catching up with heaps of people whose names have been appearing in Telopea 68 stuff.  For me, it seemed like another life started from scratch after the HSC and somehow I thought that without school there was no basis to continue relationships from there. But the idea of reconnecting after 40+ years is exciting.  And for me this a good time to be doing it, while I’m still reasonably crepit.  Oh, and if anyone wants a game of squash – I’m up for it and will bring my racquet.

See youse soon.


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