21 January 2015, Melbourne, Australia
Note: Ray is 70
21st January 1935 – 21st January 2015. What a journey!
The eightieth is always something very special, isn’t it? And not just for you and your family but for all your friends too as we look on and wonder whether we’ll ever get there ourselves (let alone get there in your condition). So celebrate! Eight decades is not to be sneezed at.
Ray, I was thinking of you today, and so many great memories popped up. I’ll spare you the full-length movie for now and just re-run a few shorts – the first one personal, the other two sporting:
1. As your Uni mates, we always looked up to you – and only partly because you were half a generation older than us. But even we were surprised when you carried off one of the most gorgeous belles of the University in your final year. I remember Roger Gay and myself shaking our heads when you declared you were going to court Margaret. Jeez, we thought, the guy’s got guts, but the idea of a Northern-Westie Newman boy heading out into the Protestant-infested waters of the abstinent EASTERN suburbs in search of love naturally filled us with dread. We knew this couldn’t work.
‘She’s already said No to him twice,’ I told Gay.
‘Well, he’s heading out there for another try,’ Gay said.
‘What’s the bait this time?’
‘He’s gonna tell her that you and I are mates of his.’
‘You reckon that’ll work...?’
It did of course, but Gay and I continued to shake our heads. She’s a Science student, we kept telling each other; she must know that if he’s a decade older than her now, then she’ll never make up the difference. The day he turns eighty, she’ll still only be seventy. ‘Ray’s an Arts graduate,’ I told Gay, ‘he’s full of it; he’ll find a way to fudge it.’ ‘Even when he’s eighty?’ Gay frowned. ‘He’s very fit, I reminded him.’‘True,’ said Gay.
2. Sports: You were always a superb footballer, Ray – you left the rest of us for dead in skills and attitude. And probably did the same in every field of ball sports - with one exception. No doubt you’ll remember as vividly as I do our first ever game of golf. I was drunk and played superbly. You were sober and totally naff. You sliced the trees to ribbons on one side of the fairway, and you hooked baby starlings out of their nests on the other. You chopped when you should have chipped, and the sight of a sand-trap or a green gave you attacks of the yips. It was the first time on a golf course for both of us, and afterwards (mostly out of feeling for the starlings) I took you under my wing and promised to show you everything I knew about the game. It’s a great memory for me. Especially now that people tell me you’ve become a fabulous golfer in the six decades since, and I take profound comfort from knowing that if you’ve ever had a bad day on the golf course from that day to this (whether it’s the youthful octogenarian yips or the ‘Lazy-Susan’ return of the slice) then it’s got fucking nothing to do with me!
3. Footy: It’s Grand Final Day, Newman vs Ormond (1960-something). It’s late 3rd quarter and we’re in deep do-do’s. Ormond has just kicked a goal and taken the lead. The ball comes back to the centre, the umpire (a hired idiot called Minson) is about to bounce it and our leader – Captain Wilson – pushes his opposing captain into Minson’s back, and spoils the bounce. The Ormond captain whirls on Wilson and cries, ‘You prick!’ Wilson’s face turns white with shock. He glares at the Ormond captain and shouts, ‘Who just called the umpire a prick?’. Minson blows his whistle and tosses a free to Wilson. The Ormond captain looks at Wilson and again he shouts, ‘You prick!’ Minson blows his whistle and give the Ormond captain a 50-metre penalty for verbal abuse. From 30 metres out, Wilson slots the goal, and Newman is never headed again.
Those were the days!
Happy Birthday, Ray. And may the second eighty be just as memorable as the first!