28 May 2015, East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Tony: Thanks for joining us at Mum’s seventieth birthday, for what is undoubtedly a special occasion for us, for a special person in our lives. I tried to think of somebody who has had more impact on me, and all I can say is that when I bought a Slurpee tonight, at Jolimont station, I walked up George Street rather than Powlett Street so that she wouldn’t see me drinking it.
It’s an enduring legacy, and such a thrill for all four of us to speak tonight.
I have a bit of her in me. She is a hoarder as some of you would know. We were clearing out the spices and the medicines at Red Hill eighteen months ago, and Dad said 'just make a note can you, of the record marker' -- and just for your information: Medicines, January 1994. Spices: mace, which had price tag on it that was in shillings and pence.
So I am a hoarder like her, and I can proudly announce that I have the fiftieth birthday speech, I have kept that! And because I know that most of you were there, but this is, after all years fifty to seventy, I can absolutely get away with doing the exact same speech here tonight.
[aside to Ned: You told me not to bag them in the introduction, didn’t you?]
One story I did tell that day is that Mum was once a smoker.
And by that I mean - she smoked once. One time, half a cigarette, didn’t inhale. And yet that fact has been held over her by my zealot father, ‘course your mother smoked once ... 'course your mother had that half a cigarette’ - our whole lives. It’s a defining half a cigarette that lost her any moral high ground as he inhabited the lofty lofty heights of non-smoking superiority.
Pippa: I think that was obviously before my day, non smoking and smoking sections on planes, but the story goes that Mum and dad were going off for a long haul flight, there was only ticket left for the non smoking section, and dad apparently took the non-smoking ticket. He had written letters to airlines, and tried to change the rules, and said that he had a higher claim on the ticket, sent mum off for eight hours in a cabin full of smoke.
Tony: Driving also got a mention at the fiftieth. Think of a location, think of a location like Richmond, and you’d imagine that that is kind of Right, in a direction that is sort of Right. So all of us kids have marvelled at the fact that mum has had the ability to go in right-wards directions, while never turning right. Because she’s so terrified of right hand turns. Terror in the car is symbolic and emblematic of her, we all have sort gouge marks in our forearms now that we're drivers ourselves, from when we’re driving, and she clutches on and screams at inopportune moments. That causes more accidents ... certainly never saves us from any ... but Sam you’ve uncovered the root cause of this?
Sam: I spoke to Lesley, who sadly who had to travel to Europe, lucky thing, and couldn't be here, but she's let me know that she sat with George, Mum's father, for Mum's first driving lessons, and sop the problem did start there. She hopped in the car in the late afternoon, Lesley was younger, so George thought, having so many girls, he could just knock off teaching two girls at once. So Mum's in the driving seat, George is in the passenger seat, Lesley is unbuckled in the back leaning over, and so they are ready to take off -- and George pulls out the clipboard, paper and pen, and being a bit of an engineer, decided to explain how the car works before they start driving -- and they got through the description of the engine, how petrol injects into the engine, the carburetors, everything else in the car, the sparkplugs, and she does make it down the hill next to the house, they go into Severne street, up the hill, there's an S bend that she does brilliantly, she's looking good, and they get to the corner of Severne and Maud Street in North Balwyn and it's a little busy at times and its now dark now because he'd taken a long time to get through the explanation of the engine, and so George says 'Now Margaret, ride the brake now, ride the break!', and she said 'What's the brake?'. Luckily we are all here.
Pippa: Ok, so I just wanted to mention a few of Mum's favourite expressions for you -- Mum likes to call Vita Brits and Weet-Bix 'Granose', offering us Granose everyday of our lives even though I don't know what they are.
She and Dad both call going to the movies, 'going to the pictures', which they sometimes 'go to town' to do.
If they use expletives they are 'shiva' and 'ruddy-hell', such as 'ruddy-hell, the garlic bread is still in the oven!'.
She gets money out of 'the hole in the wall'. Hand's up, does anyone else get money from a hole in the wall? (audience cheers)
She buys things with her 'Bankcard' (audience cheers again)
Tony: Ah, Pippa lost the audience. She however never swears, she's a class act on every front, in fact I've tried to think the amount of times I've heard Mum swear, and it is, was, once. I remember the occasion vividly -- as Pippa said, there have been some 'shivas' along the way, and there have been some 'ruddys', but never, certainly, never have I heard the 'f' word from her.
She embarked upon a ridiculous task of making individually made, hand-stitched bags for every delegate at a National Gallery of Victoria conference that she was hosting here in Melbourne. It was seventy-odd bags, it was finding off-cuts of interesting fabrics from around the world, it was getting them all together. And Mum was piling in with a whole lot of other women who were all similarly involved. Anyway I go around there one day and she says, 'You know what? You can probably have one or two of these bags, I can't give the women of this conference a bag that says “nobody fucks like me”, can I?' There it is -- Tamsin and I did get to keep that bag, and that is the one and only occasion that I heard Mum drop an F-bomb.
Ned: Alright, I'd like to talk about Mum being a problem solver. She's a magnificent lateral thinker. She can solve problems that aren't even problems. One of those occasions for me was when I was about to head off to the UK for a short stint of living over there like Tom is now, and Mum had heard a few things about living over there -- one being the terrible 'the quality of the meat over there. It's unbelievable!' -- and as I as zipping up my bag, she wandered over and said, 'Just slip this in your bag' and it was a cryovac frozen one kilogram rump steak from Jonathan's. So I was of course petrified about the sniffer dogs, but nonetheless I did what she said. And popped over there. It was just beautifully defrosted when I arrived. I was actually on my own at that point so I did have to have steak for breakfast and for dinner four days straight. But it was very nice steak.
She was of course on her best effort with problem solving around food, and she used to, well I wont say bribe us, but she was very keen for us to engage with reading and writing -- and she took us to visit the Balwyn Library, and right next door was the McDonalds, of course. And this where she would say, 'yes, we'll go to the library, but first we'll go the McDonalds but we'll just have a Big Mag,' Oh, Big Mag ... let's go through the Big Mag ... Junior Burger and then she brought from home in her, did they have tupperware then? Whatever it was, the shredded lettuce, and cheese and tomato. because her shredded lettuce was 'more nutritious' than the McDoanlds shredded lettuce. So she popped that in and gave us all a 'Big Mag' before we got to go over and pick a book each.
But my favourite bit of ingenuity from Mum, was around when we lived in Kew. It was a fair distance – a medium to large distance -- from my room to the laundry, and it wasn't so much of me delivering or let alone washing dirty clothes, or clean clothes going the other way, so Mum decided that we would have a pulley system run across the length, from my room down to the laundry. So she went to the hardware store, up a ladder ten meters, put the pulley up. So we had a massive crowd gathered there for the first voyage, and possibly could have included my lovely wife Olivia who used to, unbeknownst to me, lived around the corner. She had a dog -we had a mad dog called Woody, Pippa's dog Woody -- Pippa married someone called Woody incidentally – Olivia used to live-bait the dog by running her dog up and down, but then she'd gaze in and say, who's that weird cult in there? And that was us gathered around as we had the maiden voyage of the laundry. And it was a very sad sight to see as it just bowed down and down and ended up in the ponds. Certainly it got washed after all.
Pippa: I'd like to pay homage to Mum's ability also to do without tape measures -- , because she can furnish a house, buy stuff for the garden or whatever, just in her own body part units. So her hand, from thumb to finger tip is between 23-25cm, is that right Mum? At the shops, it's like (measures with her hand several hand-spans) -- it's amazingly accurate.
Tony: Mum and Dad are both good at seeing an opportunity for a garment. Dad told me when he gave me this shirt, that if he ever sees it on the floor that he's taking it back because he looked after it for 18 years so well: 'I didn't wash it in eighteen years, didn't need to, because it's fine cloth.' I don't know how he didn't wash it in eighteen years, it's disgusting, but anyway – there's this sense for making a garment last. And as Dad's shirts run out, Mum offers to cut off sleeves, and sew things up and give it to sons-in-laws, and give it to brothers-in-laws, and everyone has a chance if Dad has an old shirt. But perhaps more notable, the thing that really sums up this quality in Mum, and it's in no way tightness, it's about practical thinking and it's about lateral thinking.
The four words that sum up this quality of Mum's more than any other, are; two-for-one surgery. It's been an eternal dream of my mother's to have surgery for one thing, and have another surgeon rock up in the same operation and do another thing at the same time. She's tried her varicose veins with her knees, she's tried her pterygium with her hysterectomy; she's asked them to fix up her toes while they're getting rid of her bowel cancer. It is a dream of hers and I have some very good news, because they really don't like to give kids general anaesthetics, and my little fella, Harry, needs to have his nystagmus straightened up with an eye operation, and he's got a little bit of a herniatedbelly button. I think we should all shout Mum a trip to the hospital to sit in the surgical suite to so her life long dream of two-for-one surgery realised.
Also, Mum is a do-er and participator and is willing to go the full distance if a task needs to be accomplished. She has, as the property manager down at Red Hill, Don Scott – he's here tonight, Don, over there, dual premiership captain for The Hawks, and a do-er himself. And one of our lasting and perhaps scarring memories in life, was Mum, and we had a [John Dere] Gator have you got a picture of the Gator there, Ned? It's like a little tractor, right. So there was some things, I think it was a hedge that needed to be clipped -- which was out of reach for Don, he was kind of, no shirt on, sweated up, carrying what I remember as a hedge clipper, and he decided that because he couldn't reach the hedge, why not get my mother at 67 years of age, to fly along in this little Gator, while he stands on the back with the hedge clipper above his head just getting a nice straight line on the hedge. And I said to Mum, 'Mum, that wasn't a great OH&S moment for me, you know, as a lawyer. Don with the hedgeclipper over his head', and she said, 'Oh for goodness sake, it was a chainsaw'.
Pippa: Actually, the funny bit you forgot about that joke is that you said, “Mum, you could've killed yourself, and Dad said, 'You could've killed Don!”
Those photos have been endlessly rolling tonight, and obviously everyone would have noticed that Mum was, is, incredibly beautiful and has been, you know, a star, really, but she's also got a lovely sense of design and aesthetic and fashion, which she hasn't actually passed on to me. But I get heaps of compliments, and any day, and no-one knows Mum, and I echo in my head, Oh Thanks, yeah, Mum bought me this dress, yes thank my mum passed on these shoes, and gave me this necklace. And yes, I have the same glasses as Mum now, and my sister, so she's been very generous with dressing me up. Sorry about my hair . But everything that she's done has been beautiful, including the house that we lived in in (?).
Ned: I'll speak for Tony and myself, well obviously we had the hand-me-downs. And Tony might have had his shirt tucked in (by her) more than any person in the world, and I do remember last week, Mum -- and I've just grown this beard as a bit of a lark, and Mum says, 'you know, I just might get a pen and and I'm going to draw a line on your chin of where you're going to shave to.'
Tony: I did get on Race Around the World, and we do sometimes wonder if it was Mum's decision, she said ' you know what you could do, before go on that audition week? Have you thought about dying your eyelashes?' Did it. Got on! Changed my life.
Ned: Mum actually used to write, she was right at the forefront of technology, she had a job at Shell when the computer filled basically thisroom and computer programmers used punch cards, is that right? (Mum:Yep) Now, I don't know what happened, she was on maternity leave and never quite got back to the cutting edge as far as technology went ... It's been a funny story, just putting the slides together, where Mum's all, 'I've got this new scanner and the scanner won't connect to computer ... and I think it might connect over wiffy'. 'Oh, you mean wi-fi, ok'. Anyway it wasn't wi-fi, and it wasn't of course to be plugged in, and then it needed a disk stuck in, and she was trying to put the disk, not into the disk drive, but just into a random crack in the plastic.
Anyway, I do have a tip. She thinks she has fingers that don't respond to touch-screens. But, if you have two hands on the touch-screen it doesn't work. So you all know.
Sam: I'd like to say a few lovely words, and I'd like to thank Mum, for her pantry supplies, and her hand-me down best buys, and her discerning eye, and her witty quiet replies (that no-one else at the table hears), and particularly for her Voutier thighs, I didn't think a Voutier speech could go complete without a mention. And we would like to thank her for being the most amazing, amazing parent. We were parented by a very united front in our parents, we had incredible care, we had musical instruments, endless attention, sport, we were taught to love books and the best way to say this was, we all went to the podiatry school, where the students fitted up insoles, so that even our 'souls' were supported. This love and care has continued through 13 grandchildren, and we can laugh a bit about the fact that possibly you suffered more pain during my labour than I did waiting for Paddy to arrive, when she did wake Dad at 2 in the morning just to continue to talk about him when he was born and Dad...
Tony: Do you remember the line? She said to him 'Ray, Ray, don't you want to talk about him?'
Sam: So were very lucky, she's a just an amazing sister, and mother, wife and friend to us all, and we'd very much like to wish her a very happy 70th birthday and cheers, and we have the fantastic present, whoever bought this champagne glass
Ned: Yes, that's my present from the Santa Steal. I'll get Mum to have that one. Charge your glasses everybody, happy birthday to Margaret.
(Happy birthday is sung)
Margaret: I haven't prepared a speech, that was amazing, I'm not sure how true it was.
I would love to thank you all for coming. Being all good friends to me, for more years than we realise, and when we see those early photos, some of them are quite a long time ago, aren't they?
I also think of those who were not here tonight, so many people amongst you have had cancer, and recovered, but a couple haven't. And we like to think of them when we are all together. And also we have a very sick sister, so we're thinking of her a lot. And I think what we learn is we just have to have more parties to make of the most of these times when we're together. Thank you very much.
Tony: Well that it for our formalities, main course is coming now, and I just want to say that we did put out a trawl for some golf stories, and that is 21 years on a handicap of 45, except for dipping down to 44 for two weeks in 1997, and then back out to 45 – and not one golf story. She is a great friend as you all know, because anyone who is so socially committed to a sport of which she has been as consistent as she's been, is definitely a great friend. What a lovely mum, what a great friend, what a great person; Margaret Wilson.