13 December 2018,. Carousel, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia
I’m Penny Thomas one of Greggie’s dear friends from his life in Melbourne and Singapore.
Greggie & I went to university together but I really came to know him well when we moved into McKean Street together. He had returned to Melbourne from the UK and was staying with friends in North Melbourne. We were out together one night and knowing he was looking for a more permanent home as I was, I suggested we find a place together. He immediately accepted and we began to look for an apartment in Fitzroy. Now when I saw ‘we’ looked – I mean me J
I found the properties and Greggie gleefully turned up to a number of open houses, and we carefully assessed where the climate controlled fridge full of Verve might go ……. and whether it was in our price range. And settled on a gorgeous 3 bedroom converted shoe factory in McKean Street, Fitzroy North. We picked up the keys and he moved in first, in October 2009 and then Claire Murray joined us. He was very happy with the apartment and the fact that he had to do almost no work to get it. The shower was too small for him but he was living with 2 young ladies who both adored him and took care of him.
And that started the next phase of our beautiful friendship.
None of you will be surprised to hear that our house was always filled with music, given Greggie’s incredible musical prowess at guitar and singing. He was always strumming away on his guitar while meandering around the apartment singing. Or when we were sitting around the table after hosting Thursday night dinner, he and Cam would sing beautiful harmonies with Lou Simpson. I came home once to find he and Cam building a recording studio just outside his bedroom on our ground floor. I’m not sure how much music was ever recorded in that precariously constructed, maroon coloured booth, but he was pleased to have a studio in the apartment.
We had a great reciprocal arrangement at McKean Street – while Claire & I cooked dinner, he would provide a concert in the living room – we could make special requests or he would play whatever he pulled out of his brain at the time – he had a huge reservoir of songs, notes and lyrics in his head. All with his own special flavor. Or a particularly difficult song that he was practicing for a friend’s wedding. He played and sung so beautifully that he was very popular among friends getting married. I’m sure hearing his familiar, rich voice while walking the down the aisle for your wedding was just wonderful. Whether he was making the music or diving into the rich seam of playlists he had created, he gave me a music education in that house. And life had a great melody.
He was also hilarious to live with and still today, I have never laughed with anyone so much as I did with him. He was one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. There are a few of us in the room today who have been lucky enough to live with Greggie. I recall one such instance when we were sitting around on the couch with friends, Greggie playing guitar & singing – and Nick Haslett gently stuffing chips in Greg’s mouth as he sang so that by the end of song, the lyrics where so muffled you couldn’t understand him – but Greggie didn’t stop – he kept the tune going and the vague lyrics until we all fell about in hysterics. You always knew if he didn’t want to do something – like tidy up. He’d pull a face and stand there swinging his arms by his sides like a toddler …. A bit like this…..
One night I accused him of being a dirty bird …. Which he thought was hilarious, given my recent activities ….. and so the nickname “Dirty Bird” (complete with sound effect of a high pitched squeal) was born. This eventually morphed into just “Bird” and that’s how we would refer to each other – and sometimes others when referring to us as a pair. The Birds. We were each other’s plus one at weddings and 30ths, for trip hotel stays and then even holidays just the two of us. We closed the loop in each other’s friendship circles and in each other’s lives.
Greggie had 1001 sound efforts to go with his everyday language. They were so funny, that they just morphed into the lexicon. We ended up communicating with each other using a series of clicks & beeps.
Breakfast on Sunday mornings was always an event to go out for. We’d call each other on the phone (both still in bed) to check the others’ readiness to leave the house, me from the top floor and him from the ground floor. “Hello bird – are you up? Are you ready for breakfast? Hurry up bird, I’m hungry!”
He even came to a Lady Gaga concert with me. I really wanted to go and I asked him expecting a firm, “No Bueno bird” but he accepted! I purchased the tickets directly behind the sound desk as he had instructed (the best sound for the whole venue will be located there for those playing at home) and we had a brilliant night out together. His final feedback on the concert was “It was a wall of sound, bird, but still pretty good – apology accepted”.
Greggie also went off the booze for 6 months while we lived at McKean Street. He was training for the Oxfam trailwalker and to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. He was incredibly determined to ready himself for the 2 big physical challenges. He made a rule that he’d only drink for weddings ….. and he stuck to it. Save for a gloriously debaucherous evening, where we decided to treat ourselves to dinner an expensive French restaurant – and an even more expensive bottle of French red. We decided to call it a wedding that night.
In October that same year, Greggie turned 30 and he planned a massive party with Janey Kuzma. The afternoon started off well, warming up at McKean Street with a few bottles of Verve while Claire Murray and I ran around in our underpants getting ready – much to his delight. But that evening was a little too exciting for Greggie and after delivering THAT 30th birthday speech, untactfully insulting a large portion of the crowd and grabbing another drink as he excited stage left, Greggie was KB’d from his own birthday, with Mike Fink delivering him home shortly after 11pm. Good job bird.
The group present from our friends was enough money to buy himself a REALLY lovely guitar. We skivved off work one afternoon down to his favourite guitar shop in South Melbourne where he must have played 10 before he hit the jackpot. It was sunburst Taylor. Watching him play with such delight on his face was magical. Like a big kid in a big candy store – he looked over at me and said “This one’s really spency”. “Let’s put it on my credit card” I said. From that day onward that guitar was never far from his grasp, and her melody constantly permeated the peeling painted walls of McKean Street.
We had a steady stream of visitors at McKean Street. Jane Dennis was our regular couch surfer, Jamie Cousins Sutton stayed for a while. Cam, Nick, Suse, Emma, Amy, Lou, Luke, Lisa & Mike – the Reality Street crew - would join us on the top deck for beers and city sunsets. There was often someone perched on our uncomfortable breakfast bar chair chatting away to Bird when I came home over the weekend. An Ed, a Hannah, a Steph Ayres. People were drawn to Greggie like moths to a flame, because he was fun, honest and real.
It was also while in that house, that we took our first trip to Singapore. It was Grand Prix time and we spent 4 days boozing with Claire Singleton, living that uber luxurious lifestyle he loved. I think we saw some cars too. Mostly he was proud that we’d drunk tourist trap Boat Quay dry of Moet & Chandon and he had seen Mariah Carey’s back up dancers sunbathing by the pool. The quote of the trip became – “I can’t drink any more champagne bird ….. get me a daiquiri!” It was on that trip in October 2010 and the next in April 2012, that we decided we’d move to Singapore together.
I managed to move up in March 2014 and he arrived in Sept 2015. He was so excited to tell me that he had managed to negotiate the transfer with BHP and we cooed and squeaked at each other over the phone with delight.
We took a wonderful trip together to Ubud for Easter one year and luxuriated about our private villa with bottles of Verve, massages, and a 6 course degustation dinner with some of my Singapore friends – who often remarked to me afterwards how much they loved Greggie. You could take him anywhere.
And boy did he love luxury. Once Greggie had moved back to Perth in 2011 and was earning good money he really started to live life like a high roller. He had a beautiful apartment that Sandee Nilsson helped him decorate, an overflowing wine store that Pete Macrae helped him decorate and a track record for avoiding economy class air travel. When he moved to Singapore, hired his 3 bedroom apartment in the hughly popular River Valley area, took taxis to work every day, and hooked into the 12% annual tax rate, Greggie was able to maximize his love of luxury even more.
He and I took business class flights over to Mike Shipham’s wedding in 2015, and lived it up with friends in Vegas for 4 glorious days. We went to 5 star restaurants, saw A grade Magicians and Shows, and drank in bars all over Vegas - all of which Greggie loved – we even went shopping and to a pool party too – which he loved a little less. It was one of the most fun holidays with friends we had. In the plane on the way home, Greggie showed me the incredible tenderness I was lucky enough to experience from him in times of need – there was bad turbulence flying over the Bay of Bengal near India – I woke him up from a Diazapam induced slumber because I was afraid – and he held my hand until the plane stopped shaking.
We all knew Greggie was clever. While working for Exon Mobile he was doing individual uni subjects on politics while racing Claire Murray in reading as many orange covered, Penguin Classics as possible and learning new songs on guitar. He spoke French confidently with a French accent of course and his incredible memory for music, coupled with his curiosity to learn about things he was interested in, really was astounding. His intellect was phenomenal. It seemed so effortless for him. At work, with friends, with music. Not nonchalant. Just. Effortless.
And all the while maintaining friendships with people who wanted a piece of Vitamin G. You could have whatever level of friendship with Greg that your heart desired. Lighthearted and fun, deep & meaningful, advisory, motivational. He held a place for everyone in his life who mattered to him and he was fiercely loyal, sensible and immune to politics.
And he celebrated the achievements of all his friends. He whole-heartedly congratulated friends on finishing undergrad & masters degrees, on securing new jobs, promotions or house purchases. His celebration was always genuine and never with a hint of jealousy. I told him a while back I would congratulate myself on “making it” in Singapore with a colourful Hermes scarf. For my birthday last year, he bought that beautiful Hermes scarf for me – saying “you’ve earnt it Bird, and you weren’t going to buy it for yourself”.
And he gave THE BEST HUGS. In times of happiness …. sadness …… success …….. and after time apart. They could stop you in your tracks. They could dry tears. They made you feel safe. In a Greggie hug – the world stopped. It sounds very clique but it’s true. If a human wingspam is the same as human height – imagine 195cm of Greggie arms wrapped around you. He could squeeze the life out of you if he tried but for a tall man, he was a gentle giant. I came home crying very late one Saturday evening, lay on his bed and he hugged me til I stopped crying and feel asleep.
Greggie had the most incredible number of small phrases in his repertoire. Aside from being clever, funny and devilishly handsome, he was also wildly entertaining, which made him even more fun to be around. Allow me to share with you a small glossary of Greg terms:
· “Taste it” – meaning when you had got your come-uppance
· “You know, the usge”
· “What is it, that it is that you are staying out loud to me right now?” – meaning what are you talking about?
· “You’ve got to spend money to make money” “Risk & return” “Supply in demand” – always delivered in sequence
· “Lick it like you own it”
· “Oh yeah”
· “You do you”
· “Toot toot” –meaning look out we’re on the Bourbon train
· “If you like that kind of thing”
· “How do you LIKE me know”
· “Are you picking up what I’m putting down?”
· “Lick a dick”
· “I’ll burn you to the ground”
· “Oh C’mon” – meaning don’t make me do something I don’t want to do
· “EABOD” – eat a bag of dicks - I don’t want to do what you want
· Not to be outdone by “EABOBOD” eat a big old bag of dicks – I really don’t want to do what you want.
· “Slow burn”
Most of these phrases were him either expressing outrage, justice or affirmations. But the funny thing was, you never needed to be with him the moment the phrase came together – you could just be sucked into the vortex later when he re-used it, coupled with his hilarious theatrics – and feel like you’d made that memory with him. He was the same Greg to everyone who encountered him – there was no work persona, no filter – just him. And he was brilliantly funny to everyone.
This past October, my present to Greggie was a home cooked breakfast in his house the day before his birthday. He asked for scrambled eggs, with spinach & bacon. He talked about his plans for the trip to the Maldives and how excited he was that Lindsey would be joining him. He talked about how his plans to take 2019 off work were not shaping up so well, because he was really enjoying his job. He was happy and everything was coming up Millhouse. It was a lovely morning just the two of us. The left over spinach is still sitting in my fridge in Singapore – I’m unable to throw it away.
I could write volumes & volumes about Greggie. But it feels almost impossible to capture the richness, the emotions, the fabric, and the depths of our connection. A friendship like that is rare – and it will last me this lifetime.
We have a million wonderful memories and a million and one photos and videos of him. But as Greggie’s other dear friend Sandee Nilsson, pointed out to me last week, the terribly sad thing is, that we can’t make new memories with him. His theatrics, his jokes, his hilarious quips must live on with us. We owe that to Kerry and Debbie and to his beautiful nieces who he was so proud of – so we can tell them his stories one day soon … about their one in a billion, hilarious, kind, wonderful uncle. Our dear friend Greggie.
An incredible funeral finished with this performance by friends Cam Fink and Knockers. The running joke about ‘cover ofr a Greg Templeton song’ was part of Cam’s eulogy