I went up to Darwin last weekend to help celebrate my brother Tom’s 50th birthday. He’s a modest man but has a history of some fairly outrageous and/or hilarious outings. Some of those had to be trotted out as part of the formalities of the evening, just to remind him of that wild young soul who resides deep inside that middle aged, respectable, family focussed, coffee connoisseur.
This is the boy who was Tommy, with Ringo our dog.
He was taught everything he knows by our sister Lizzie who is only 13 months older than him. Seriously…once she started at school, she sat him down every afternoon and taught him everything she’d learnt that day. But he quickly became a long, lanky streak and Liz would never have the same control over him that she did in that first year of school.
Tom was always good at maths and eventually studied economics. Before that though Tom took to the road on his motorbike and rode from Tasmania (down near Antarctica) to Darwin. At one point when I was fanging around the countryside Tom and I decided to ride from Brisbane to Sydney, where I was living.
Tom’s bike (if I remember correctly) was something like a Kawasaki 750. We’d decided, in a moment of brilliance, to leave Brisbane about 7pm and ride through the night for the 10 hours or so it took to get to Sydney. Not one of our better decisions. We shared the riding, but the bike was really too heavy for me. Never the less, off we went into the dark of night. We did OK until sometime after Tamworth when I was riding and Tom on the back kept falling asleep. I remember the helmet he wore banging into my back as he’d drift off. I’d do my best to wake him up by elbowing him violently. Eventually in the light of early dawn we swapped again and took off with Tom riding. Only a little way down the road we blew a tyre. This is not too much fun on a bike and we were lucky in so many ways to survive that moment. I then had to hitch a ride with the tyre into the nearest town, wait for the mechanics to open, get it fixed and hitch back out – extending the trip by another few hours. We made it by the skin of our teeth. So, so tired.
I took this photo a couple of years later when I and my fellow band mates stayed with Tom in his share house in Brisbane in 1985.
Tom has three kids and a step-son with his partner Lorna. They’ve been together for 22 years now. They are quite social, but don’t throw too many parties these days. This was one for the books. A milestone birthday with people coming in from all over the country to celebrate it with him and his family.
Party preparations were exhausting but ultimately worth it. A sit down dinner for 30 under the swinging lights and the stars in a bushy suburban back yard. Great food, including some pretty amazing cakes. Lots of stories and reminiscences, laughter and fun. One of the best moments was when Tom, in his speech told us how happy he was with his wife & life.
Here’s a couple of my favourite photos of the night.