Having celebrated my 63rd wedding anniversary with my wife, Irene, in July, we could now retire. The occasion got me thinking about how lucky and how happy I am. Memories are a second happiness for me and I got to reminiscing, my thoughts rolling back over the years, about how fortunate I have been.
Born in 1934, I was the 11th of 12 children. We lived in poverty, so much so my life expectancy was nothing more than 67 years. I’m proud to say I’ve made it well past that age, but there have been some exciting achievements along the way.
I had a pretty good mathematical brain in my head and won a scholarship at the age of 11. By the age of 15 I was joining the army. I was a drummer in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle and performed again on Remembrance Day in the Royal Albert Hall in London. I became a member of a ‘silent drill squad’ on horse guards parade and by the age of 20, I was a sergeant in the army.
That was also the same age I married my sweetheart, Irene. We lived in Hong Kong for two years. By the time our daughter, Tina, came along in 1958 we were living in West Germany where we would stay for five years.
I toured Germany, Denmark, Luxembourg, Andorra, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, Austria, Lichtenstein, Spain, France, Scotland, Ireland and the United Kingdom. I saw Adolf Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess, at Spandau Prison in Berlin. He was one of seven Nazis serving a life sentence, having been found guilty of ‘crimes against peace (planning and preparing a war of aggression) and conspiracy with other German leaders to commit crimes’.
We emigrated to Australia in 1965 and I was commissioned in the CMF (Citizen Military Forces) two years later. It is now known as the Australian Army Reserves.
I’ve chartered a DC3 plane from Adelaide to Port Hedland, and I chartered a ship from Adelaide to Abu Dhabi, both of which were more successful than the first time I tried riding a motorcycle. I was 37 at the time and was at Groote Eylandt in the Northern Territory. I came off the bike and skinned my shin.
Having stepped away from the defence forces I worked for Brambles Industries, a supply chain and logistics company. I worked across the Northern Territory, Papua New Guinea, West Iran and The Kimberley region of Western Australia until 1975 when I was head hunted to Ipec Transport. I was later involved in the start up of Ipec Air and Ipec International. People might be more familiar with the Toll Group, which is what it has become.
Not content, I developed a four-acre orchard with 29 varieties of fruits and nuts. I’ve also slaughtered and butchered my own lambs, pigs, goats, turkeys, ducks, chickens and rabbits.
Irene and I quite like to travel too. Over the years we have spent more than 1,500 days at sea, visiting 95 countries, on 83 cruises.
We have toured in and around the Taj Mahal. We have climbed Diamond Head on Oahu; swam off Waikiki Beach at Honolulu; and stood at the peak of Mount Mauna Kea at 14,000 feet on the island of Hawaii. There has been dancing on 42nd Street, a helicopter ride around Manhattan Island and a trip up the Empire State Building in Manhattan; we’ve listened to a gospel choir in The Bronx; and have been up the Statue of Liberty. We have transited both the Suez and Panama canals; and have cruised 1,800km up the Amazon River (that’s about the distance from Sydney, New South Wales to Cairns, far north Queensland in Australia).
Other travel experiences that stand out include touching the ‘Wailing Wall’ and wandering in The Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem. We have touched both the pyramids and the Sphinx in Egypt. Driving into the only ‘drive in’ volcano at St Lucia was something I will never forget.
I’ve sold fully furnished homes in Adelaide, Brisbane, Townsville, Sydney and Traveston. I also sold and managed retirement villages in Townsville, Mackay and Albury. These days we live in one. Given that I’ve never been in hospital and currently take no prescription medication, I count my blessings and consider that my life has been somewhat like a long, post-orgasmic glow. But then I’ve had Irene by my side, and what’s not to love about that.