Alice Kohler: 'The story of Phoebe and Leigh will be strong, beautiful and forever', for sister Phoebe & Leigh - 2015

5 December 2015, Richmond, Melbourne, Australia

Hello, it’s so wonderful to see everyone here and see so many friends and loved ones in the room, for those of you who don’t know me, I’m Alice, I’m Phoebe's sister, and I’m thrilled and excited to say a few words tonight.

To talk about Phoebe is to talk about stories, because she is in all of mine. I could tell you the story of Phoebe and me, but really it's the story that has told me, it is this story that has made me who I am.  Phoebe has been my story, and has taught me how to be a sister, how to love, how to be a good friend, how to be more patient (which I often fail miserably at), how to laugh, how to cry and how to listen.

Rebecca Solnit, a woman whose words I have come to love, says,  “Stories are compasses and architecture; we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice. To love someone is to put yourself in their place, we say, which is to put yourself in their story, or figure out how to tell yourself their story.”

The truth is, Phoebe is my story.  She told me the other day that we've been mucking around for 30 years now, and even though it feels like 5 minutes, it's very true. Nearly 31 years now actually!  Since the first day we met on January 2nd, 1985, Phoebe has been a constant source of laughter, love and kindness.  Giggling Girties as our Mum used to (and still does) call us, we used to have sleepovers in each other’s rooms, just to continue laughing into the evening.

Phoebe has a wonderful ability to laugh, and make everything feel like it’s going to be ok.  She is brilliantly intelligent, and this, matched with her kindness is an unusual, and glorious combination.  This year has been her hardest yet, but she is brave, and level headed.  We speak nearly everyday when I’m in London, and these conversations are a gift I keep in my heart, and for which I will always be grateful.  Our story crosses oceans easily, and without it, I may not have been brave enough to make the leap.

When Leigh came into the story, or, musicguy75, the screen name we first knew him by, I saw him as a quiet, thoughtful, and … tall presence.  Perhaps the quietness was contagious, because soon Phoebe was also quiet about him.  What I soon realised was that this quiet stillness was a kind of certainty that has been there from the first glass of wine at the Black Cat, to this gorgeous dinner we are sharing tonight.

Leigh has felt very much like a big brother to me, with his incredible ability to cut any embarrassment out of any situation.  He makes one feel completely as ease.  I could illustrate this with a story – not about me – but about Phoebe.  When Leigh was living in Sydney, he was coming back to Melbourne for a much needed weekend.  Phoebe eagerly awaited his return by making a pizza, buying a bottle of wine, and lighting some candles.  Unfortunately, after a bit of a delay, the pizza became cold, and eaten, the wine was a little bit gone, and the candle wax had somehow spilled all over the new couch.

Now, a lot of people would have been dismayed to return home to this scene, after a long and tiring journey.  Not Leigh.  He pulled Phoebe into a hug, and they had a lovely night after all.

Phoebe and Leigh are, as our Nan, Noel would say, mates.  They are together in a way that makes total, and perfect sense to anyone who meets them.  Leigh remains calm when Phoebe loses her phone (because it’s always in her handbag), and Phoebe’s beautifully nurturing way is home to Leigh. In the last few years my admiration for Phoebe has grown, even when I thought it couldn’t get any bigger.  One of the things I’m most certain of, is that the story of Phoebe and Leigh will be strong, beautiful and forever.