BARRACKING FOR THE LOSER.

By Gareth Andrews

 

 

Grand Final. It’s  that time of the year when most ex-footballers of any age, era, competition or sex (I reckon Daisy Pearce knows more about footy than I’ve forgotten) are asked “who do you reckon will win?” We are supposed to know or have an opinion ( and if the enquirers don’t get the answer they want, “we” get told we wouldn’t know anything!) Unless one of the teams we follow is playing, probably most of us either don’t know, don’t care or both. Spin the coin or tell them to get the answer from Daisy, Tim, Brian and Co. At least they are paid to know.  

Now here’s the rub for me. The “don’t care” factor should still kick in as neither Geelong nor Richmond is playing. The reality is I quite like both teams. I suspect many others feel the same. I might be getting soft but I don’t want either side to lose. How pathetic is that? It needs some explaining. 

The difference between winning and losing a Grand Final has consequences for the rest of the Players’ lives. I’ve been lucky enough to play in two of them, the first in 1967 when my  Geelong Cats were beaten by the Tigers (Richmond) in a game for the ages. With the lead changing hands numerous times in last quarter, the Tigers triumphed by 9 points. As a 20 year old I was gutted, but like all of us in our youth we feel our time will come again.The misery out on the ground after the game and down the highway to the Geelong Town Hall that night was slightly lessened by the fatalistic hope of my youth. It was not something that unburdened the older members of the team. They knew how hard Flags are to win. A cliche but absolutely on the button, as I eventually discovered.

It took exactly another seven years before I changed Clubs to Richmond and playing alongside many of my opponents from ‘67, I got to run around the MCG holding the Cup and sharing the triumph with a group of blokes who have become mates for life. I love my Geelong mates but there’s an extra depth when you win.

So Melbourne or the Bulldogs this week? There’s a rationale behind supporting The Demons this week as their last Flag was in 1964, the year before my career began. But I don’t get very sentimental about that as it seemed like they were winning every year through my formative days. They had their share so to speak, in the same way Hawthorn has in every decade since. Share it around a bit I say although I acknowledge the majority of fans are probably younger than me and feel a bit sorry for the Dees. Not me.

I can also mount a case against the Bullies but the aforementioned may not have heard of Ted Whitten. Who, some might say? Back when I played Whitten was in a battle with Ron Barassi for the unofficial title of Mr Football. They were superstars. It was my misfortune to play on Whitten a number of times in my early years and to be honest, I was scared witless! Gruff, tough and the epitome of somebody coming from the other side of town. I was a kid from Geelong. The Geelong College! He was Footscray. His pregame handshake was honed to perfection as was every part of his game. He fed on kids like me. He gouged fingers and crunched bones as he wished you well. I can’t see it happening today but it always made me wary of a Bulldog. Man or animal.

The players today seem a lot, um, nicer! Haircuts aside, most of them seem to be the sort of bloke you’d be happy to see your daughter go out with. That big tall blond ruckman/forward for the Dogs, Tim English, is unfairly handsome; ex Captain Easton Wood, I’m told, is a quietly spoken gentleman. And the Demons? You couldn’t dislike Max Gawn! Women just want to rap him in their arms. Kysaiah Pickett brings an Indigenous family history to the game with his boyish polish. 

Of course we want to celebrate having two local teams in the Grand Final again after another year from hell. It’s been State versus State this Covid year and who ever wins is representative of us all. We’ve won the lockdown Premiership, we might as well win the real Flag. To do it in Perth, is another bonus! (My friend Tim Lane reckons Melbourne might lay off til next year and play it in front of their adoring fans at the ‘G. I suspect not.)

Two female Presidents as well. I still have split my loyalties. It’s a game for true romantics. In which case, I have to barrack for the loser. But as Gene Pitney sang in 1962, “..true love never runs smooth..” and I suspect the case will happen again this week. Pitneys’s track was “Only Love Can Break a Heart.” Sadly at the final siren there will be many broken hearts. Maybe a little part of mine.

 

Author’s Bio
Gareth Andrews - Founder and Director of Life Again, a registered Not for Profit charity that educates and helps men to change and lead more fulfilling and purposeful lives. Through writing, public speaking, taking men to the Outback and working with Aboriginals, workshops and personally challenging men.

RECOVERY.

By Gareth Andrews

 

 

Emerging recently from the Fifth Lockdown in Melbourne, an almost Olympian First in the Australian Championship of COVID lockdowns, I returned with a surreal feeling of emptiness, an emptiness which would take time to fill, if indeed it would ever be filled again in my lifetime. (I can hear my clock ticking.) And whatever it would be filled with was never going to be the same as “it” held leading up to March 2020. 

I was not alone. The more opinions I sought, the more I realised their was a common feeling of people wearing down as this process dragged on. When I suggested to them that the word Recovery might be an appropriate “descriptor,” they unanimously agreed. It was universally playing on their minds. 

As I write, I had been reading an interview Channel Nine’s Peter Overton had had with veteran  newsreader Brian Henderson in February 2020. In the Herald Sun of August 6th, this was part of reporting of Henderson’s death from cancer at age 89. The interview was “about his kidney cancer diagnosis in 2020. It was his fifth cancer diagnosis after he had beaten melanoma, prostate, bowel and throat cancer,saying he would not be fighting the cancer again. …’there is not much point in having another operation, I don’t want to be cut open again,’ he said.”

It was Brian’s fifth time. We are now heading into our sixth time of being emotionally and physically “opened again” and the pain is becoming more acute. 

This emptiness and the possibility it may never be filled again comes from a place of fear.

Fear that it will happen again. Fear of when it will happen again. Fear of personal freedoms being butchered. Fear of total disconnection from what is real. Fear of Big Brother taking over. Fear of trying to fill in time with soul-destroying thoughts. 

When I refer to Recovery I am not talking about recovery from Clinical Depression and the total debilitating effect  that causes. That make effect 15-20% of our community at any one time. No, I am thinking of a much broader community than that. I am referring to an insidious malaise that is literally affecting 100% of our community. Indeed I recently tuned into an online interview where Lucinda Brogden, Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, suggested that “5 in 5 Australians are experiencing psychological distress, beginning at the mild end of anxiety and depression.”

Covid affects everybody in Australia at the moment— indeed the World. Of course I can’t speak for everybody but the best I can do is be fair, be balanced, be rational, and as much as possible be non-political. There is no right or wrong in all of this but in a world where discussion has gone out the window and those who make the most noise stand off and face each other with totally opposite views. With anger. With ugly aggression. 

So what does Recovery look like and how does it begin?

A good start is to get out of bed! Sounds stupid in its simplicity but I know it resonates across the board in tough times. The easiest thing is to bury under the blankets and hope the world goes away. Without a train to catch or an office meeting (an actual meeting) to go to, we can all hide. Sadly we can’t hide from ourselves. Your brain becomes your enemy. I experienced it at its worst when I was in deep depression twenty years ago: I’m not afraid to admit I’m still experiencing it today. Depression doesn’t grip me but life does. It’s called being human.

It’s not just a matter of rolling out of bed but also getting some physical movement. Whether it’s stretching the whole body on or off the bed or taking some very deep breaths, it’s remarkable how quickly the whole being can come into action. It’s like warming up your Maserati!!!! At least, think about it like that.

The key part of this whole routine is development of Discipline in your life. Your first step out of bed is like all journeys; it sets the tone of the day.

Of course, it’s important to have a good healthy breakfast. That’s a given. But in the context of Recovery and the necessity of paying attention to mind and body, I am exploring the power of overcoming the belting that the mind has taken over the last year and a half. 

So before or after breakfast, do what you are able to do. Go for a walk, get a coffee, more deep breaths, speak to neighbours passing by (despite the fact that the speech can become a muffled grunt behind the mask) and look up in the sky and notice everything is still in it right place. And when you are speaking, try to avoid the C and V words. Covid and Vaccines need a break.

Resting Recovery might seem to be in conflict with the aforementioned getting out of bed comments, but it’s not. For some of us who have already experienced almost 200 days in lockdown—welcome aboard Melburnians—

 

Author’s Bio
Gareth Andrews - Founder and Director of Life Again, a registered Not for Profit charity that educates and helps men to change and lead more fulfilling and purposeful lives. Through writing, public speaking, taking men to the Outback and working with Aboriginals, workshops and personally challenging men.

JOHANN HARI TALK

JOHANN HARI TALK.

 

 

After hearing Johann Hari, a Swiss-British writer & journalist speak last week, Gareth was inspired by what he had to say.  The author of the recently released book, “Lost Connections” drew a large crowd.  He suggests that modern life has left us disconnected, isolated and alienated from meaningful work, from the natural world and from our fellow human beings.  How can we reconnect to the communities around us?  What can we do about it?  What sort of project might bring a much-needed sense of meaning and connection back into our lives?

This strikes a chord to the heart of what Life Again Foundation is all about.  By taking a step back and embarking on an Outback Trip away from the pressures of life, men get to experience our stunning country and meet some special people along the way.  Whilst taking on some new and exciting challenges, they take the time to reconnect with others and start to try and make sense of their lives and decide on personal adjustments one might make to ensure their work is life is more meaningful. 

Life Again have confirmed the dates of the upcoming Outback trips are:-

29th July – 4th August & 2nd Sept -  7th September

For trip enquiries, contact [email protected]


FINDING JOY!

FINDING JOY IN A SEEMINGLY JOYLESS TIME.

By Gareth Andrews

 

 

My piece of heaven on earth during the past 18 months in Melbourne has been the marvellous Fitzroy Gardens, immediately adjacent to the city’s CBD. This major Victorian era setting has become my new exercise venue, and a place where my soul can be recharged. It is my salvation, my reparation, my counsellor. Early mornings twice a week with my trainer Emma (when allowed) and my mate Ray ( when allowed!) have been a God-send. In bleak times they have given me happiness and peace, as well as a chance for a good work out. Never to be left out has been my black pug, Wednesday. And yes, that’s her name! 

The autumnal beauty in the Gardens is extra special. Crisp sunny coolish days and even light rain bring their own atmosphere. But there is nothing more beautiful than the magnificent trees, particularly the mighty deciduous English Oaks, English Elms and London Planes. The gnarled Oaks are glorious in their nakedness and the carpet they throw out from their falling leaves is spectacular.

And therein lies this story. Dog Wednesday discovered the thrill of burying herself in the latest fall, practising cartwheels, spins, and all measures of joyousness. Joining her and being part of her fun was a moment for me when my own world stopped. My mental world. My thinking world. It opened my own world to pure joy. It was spontaneous. 

Joy is hard to explain as it comes from an internal place. It is an event. It is an experience. It happens to you, and you alone. It’s an engagement between your senses and your feelings. Others can witness it but never see it. Theirs is theirs and yours is yours. Joy is high energy and of shortish duration. But it does alter you in a way that you are not quite the same person as before. This is the key to this story. 

Many years earlier, not far from the Gardens, I was wandering through the MCG carpark after watching a game of football. I remember nothing of the day itself other than it was deep into the winter months. I do however remember the period of my life. It was a grim time for me, my own winter of discontent. I was bunkered down in my heavy overcoat, experiencing the smell of nature after a rain event, a natural occurrence that I have subsequently learned has a word of its own. Petricore. Suddenly my worry and anxiety was washed away by a moment that is still hard to describe. I felt warm, cocooned, safe, and somehow happy and lucky. It was fleeting but it has remained with me to this day, maybe 20 years on. It was joy. 

It’s hard to find joy in our COVID world, in our 21st Century world. Wherever we look there is doom, gloom, and disaster. There is chaos in our hearts and minds. It’s hard enough to get up, let alone get out. It’s easy to say “I’m over it, I can’t be bothered anymore.”

But that’s the point. We actually have to be bothered. Boredom, anxiety, despair and depression often accompany the absence of joy. Something has to change and my first two stories are all about getting outdoors. Putting yourself into a situation where it is more likely to happen. Slowing down your mind. No matter how else you feel, you’ll feel some level of rejuvenation.

I tried something earlier this week. I had spent a couple of weeks seeing the mainly housebound brigade heading off for coffee at the local. (It used to be the pub!) I realised there was a sameness about everybody beyond the ubiquitous mask. It was our clothing. I was part of the black brigade. Beanies, gym tops, tights, runners, and whatever else in between. Anything resembling grey was a refreshing change. Faces mirrored the general mood as the latest lockdown was cutting deeper into our psyches. On this particular morning I changed my mood by changing my clothes. Yellows, oranges and bright green gear were pulled out of my cupboard and as I dressed I experienced an instant high. It was a tweak of joy. It was as if I’d opened a window to allow a sliver of sunshine in- metaphorically of course. It was a spontaneous action and led to an openness to experience joy. It was simple. Of course, the coffee crew had a positive reaction. It mightn’t have been joy but perhaps a measure of happiness. 

You certainly can’t invent joy as it’s a reaction to a circumstance. But if you have a crack at the circumstance you never know what might eventuate. My mate Johnny lives in Lorne and has the Otways literally at his back door. I sneak down to visit him between lockdowns!! All kosher. Easter was a great time to visit but the weather attracted masses to the beaches. We decided to drive into the Otways instead. Johnny had his ‘secret pond’ little more than 10 kilometres from home. It was literally on the edge of the forest but you could have been deep inside. In classic Johnny style we bought a few sausages, threw in a cheap BBQ, wine and glasses and a couple of small deck chairs. Cheap and cheerful and very civilised. The drive was short and the immersion into nature was instant with hardly another car on the road. Johnny pulled up beside a small, grassy clearing with the little pond nestling in the shade alongside the road. Picturesque to say the least. We were soon seated, settled and cooking.

Then came the joy. There was action in the pond is how Johnny puts it. And for the next half an hour or so we focussed on the frog symphony. Joy had a fair chunk of bliss added in. Johnny pointed out the “voice” of the Geocrinia victoriana , the Eastern smooth froglet common to the area. Then he took out his Frogs of Australia App to prove he was right. It was a moment in time. The world stopped. It may be an experience rather than a state of mind but you become more open to it by putting yourself in situations where it is more likely to happen. When we left I had a bit of a hop in my step! 

So there we almost have it. Joy can suddenly come from nowhere but we have to try to put ourselves in a position when we are open to it.

One of ways is through Curiosity, particularly in the outdoors. Curiosity is a portal to our soul. When going outdoors, even on the briefest of occasions, lift your head high rather than looking at the ground or looking at your Social Media. Look at the sky, at day or night. Feel how small we really are in the scheme of things. Whistle a happy tune. 

Of course it can come more regularly through walking along the beach, going to a concert, meeting a special friend, reading a book. It can be hormone driven which brings libido into play. 

And here’s the last one I’d love to explore. I’ve had the joy of playing in a winning AFL (VFL at the time) Grand Final (I’ve also experienced the pain of playing in a losing one.) The moment when the siren sounded to end the game and the rest of the time out of the ground, receiving the Cup and running around the stadium with it, was Joy to the nth degree. In the rooms afterwards, my feeling was one of intense pleasure rather than joy. The pleasure was the memory of the experience rather than the experience itself. I’ve sometimes thought of Michael Tuck’s thoughts in  light of being a seven-time premiership-winning player with Hawthorn. Can you get so programmed to that sort of success that the spontaneity of joy diminishes? I suspected it would probably be a case of multiple joys. He’s the only one who’d know. I rang Tucky. His soulful voice paused and contemplated the memory. “Funny you know. There was always joy, but the level was always dependent on how well you played. It’s interesting that in the later GFs my joy was more for the younger players who’d not had the experience before.” And there you go. Levels of joy and types of joy. 

In essence, joy is simple. Joy is fleeting. Joy opens the heart, the mind and the soul to better things. It can give hope. In bad times as well as good. You never stop seeking it and finding it. It’s personal.

Author’s Bio
Gareth Andrews - Founder and Director of Life Again, a registered Not for Profit charity that educates and helps men to change and lead more fulfilling and purposeful lives. Through writing, public speaking, taking men to the Outback and working with Aboriginals, workshops and personally challenging men.


6 WAYS TO BUILD WORKPLACE RELATIONSHIPS

6 WAYS TO BUILD WORKPLACE RELATIONSHIPS

By Alex Morrison.

 

Being able to understand others is a great gift but it often takes time and effort to develop. Building a good rapport with colleagues not only makes for a happier workplace but a much more productive one where everyone feels valued, which spurs workers to do their very best.

Effective communication can’t be underestimated in building effective workplace relationships.

International consulting firm Gallup(1) found that where a person had a best friend at work they were up to seven times more productive and engaged with their job. Even if the friend wasn't their ‘bestie’, just having a good friend at work made them happier. 

If your workplace needs a boost, we have six valuable tips for building relationships that will garner loyalty and enthusiasm to produce and create a better work environment. Keeping valued staff is vital to your success so read on:

1. Recognise and Respect Everybody

We know people come in a variety of shapes, sizes and temperaments, with varying levels of education, differences in culture and ability, and each has a quality unique to themselves. Interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence are important and appreciating the differences in your team can enhance its effectiveness. 

Respecting everyone, celebrating each person’s approach to problem-solving can save time and money and enhance your team’s creativity. Don't automatically expect each of our colleagues to work in the same way you do. Do unto others and respect everyone’s way of working as you would like them to respect yours.

2. The Term ‘You’ is Important  

Nobody likes being talked at and lectured to by a boss or a co-worker. It creates resentment and is bad for developing communication and productive friendliness in the workplace. It’s important to learn to listen, take turns when communicating and use the word ‘you’ in a positive way.

Engaging a colleague or superior in your ideas entails acknowledging what they have to say, paraphrasing, and asking questions is powerful. It’s easy to ask ‘what do you think of that?’ or drop a ‘thank you’, ‘good job!’, ‘awesome’ or ‘I really appreciate your efforts’ into a chat.

3. Show People How Much You Care

There was a time when emotion and business were anathema to each other. But we now know how important respecting emotions are in building healthy workplace relationships. Being authentic and empathetic is also crucial (while some in the upper echelons of power need empathy training, most people can empathise with others but may need a reminder). 

Empathy is the ability to see, understand and share the thoughts and feelings of someone else, be that an animal or even a character in fiction. Laugh with your colleagues and if someone needs a shoulder to cry on, be there. Natural horsemanship trainer Pat Parelli says your horse doesn’t care how much you know until he knows how much you care. Same goes with your colleagues. If they know you care about them they will listen to you.

4. If You Have Something in Common, Share It Freely 

Even though we are all different, we have a lot in common.The same goes with your work colleagues who are employed by the same firm, and often on the same projects or even production lines. If the company is successful you share that pride with your workmates, and if there are losses you feel the same disappointments. 

Because your work fellows possibly react emotionally to life events the same way you do, there are human, common connections. When you feel you can, it builds bonds to share your personal stories and to talk with enthusiasm about the job - this can be infectious and lead to a happier workplace. 

5. Ask Your Workmates Questions

Considering how much of their lives are spent at jobs, a healthy work environment helps in every area of their lives. And by asking questions, you can come to an understanding of who your colleagues are and this builds trusting, long term work relationships. Use a tone that doesn't make colleagues feel inferior, or superior but on the same wavelength. You can ask how much they enjoy the work, what’s most important to them, and how you can stay in touch. To connect and understand others is simple but you have to want to do it.

6. If Someone Needs Help, Dive In

Helping one person can mean you’re helping a lot of people. Being a helpful workmate can go a long way towards building a healthy and productive business. Help can range from a small favour, to taking phone calls if a colleague is at lunch, to helping reach a deadline or working a weekend. You don’t want to become the sole helper in the office, so only help if you genuinely can without compromising on your own time and tasks. So be aware of the difference between being used and being helpful.

At Life Again, our reason for being is to help men connect using storytelling and creating safe places where they are heard and valued and how to give back with selfless acts of kindness.

 

 

References:

  1. https://www.gallup.com/cliftonstrengths/en/249605/having-best-friend-work-transforms-workplace.aspx

 

Author’s Bio
Alex Morrison has worked with a range of businesses giving him an in-depth understanding of many different industries. He has used his knowledge and experience to work for clients as diverse as Adroit Insurance, Simple Biz and Corporate Work Health to help them reach their business goals.


GETTING OUR FILL OF LIFE AGAIN

GETTING OUR FILL OF LIFE AGAIN

By Gareth Andrews

 

 

Towards the end of 2020, those of us living in Victoria, no matter where, suffered through lockdown. For Melburnians, it was one of the harshest lockdowns in the world. For much of it, we were restricted to not travelling more than 5km from home. For the entire lockdown, we were unable to leave town itself. Quite simply, we were not able to go anywhere, see anyone, care for family, or take a break from life.

The essence of life is connection and touch — a hug, a kiss, a shoulder massage, a foot rub, and it was all gone. We momentarily lost what it is to be human. We were fully masked and distanced!

Last winter, I spoke about the wonderful power and positive influence of nature. I was urging  everybody to hit the world of nature and to get a good mental “fix” by doing so. Judging by the traffic I’ve recently experienced when heading down to Geelong and beyond a couple of times, we are all now behaving like escaped lions. We are getting our fill of Life Again (which is exactly the reason I chose this name for our Foundation eight years ago).

Nowadays, we need to focus on what changes we are going to make now that we are emerging from our COVID bubble — and praying that we don’t go back there ever again. The word that comes to mind for me is WONDERMENT. I love other powerful words such as awe, curiosity, fascination, amazement, marvel… but none captures the humanness of wonderment.

It’s almost like watching the world through a child’s eyes and imagining all of their first experiences.

Their womb has been their lockdown and suddenly they enter the world and start to look around their environment and “see”. Maybe they don’t say “wow” but I do expect they feel it!

Sadly, as we grow older, we have too many conflicting experiences weighing us down to be able to recapture the power of this early feeling of wonderment. We have stopped looking, or actually stopped really opening our eyes. We have become blind to what’s beautiful and too rational to rate its specialness in our lives. As I suggested in the previous article, nature is the perfect first place to look.

In my last year of school, I received a prize on Speech Day – a beautiful copy of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring. I knew nothing about it, and it looked far too heavy in content to interest me at the time. I placed it on the shelf, but I kept hearing about the impact it had had on man’s contact with nature. When I finally read it, I found myself taking more of an interest in the broader world. I had travelled but never dug deeply enough into the essence of where I was: the ultimate nature of a thing especially as opposed to its existence. Superficial observation rather than immersion.

Carson wrote a further book, The Sense of Wonder, where she said, “Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties or mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life… Their thoughts can find paths that lead to inner contentment and to renewed excitement in living. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” 

It’s not just about getting out and about, but trying to soak in everything you are seeing.

And it’s not just about seeing things, it’s experiencing them. Go into some of those areas that were fire ravaged last summer and learn more about how and why it occurred. Would adopting some of the fire-controlling techniques of our First Peoples have made a difference? Marvel at the first golds and reds in the autumnal leaves. Reflect on this for a while and realise that this will go on ad infinitum, long after we have gone from this world. 

Rediscover your childhood and play games with your kids. Read them Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Even your young adult kids. Teach them, and yourself, to never get so buried down in life that you can no longer see the forest for the trees. Meander along beaches and rivers in wonder. Find shells, crustaceans, cuttlefish, snails, jellyfish. Go home and learn about them.

Lie on your back under massive Mountain Ash trees on Maits Track in the Otways, west of Lorne, seeking glimpses of the sky through this mighty majestic greenery. Wind down your windows and breath the nakedness and freshness of it all. 

As Rachel Carson told us, you’ll never weary of life if you seek and find life wherever you are. Netflix, Facebook, Instagram and Zoom might have held us together through a hard lockdown but they don’t necessarily inspire us. Be inspired and filled with wonderment and never let it go. Otherwise, it’ll be too late.

 

Author’s Bio
Gareth Andrews - Founder and Director of Life Again, a registered Not for Profit charity that educates and helps men to change and lead more fulfilling and purposeful lives. Through writing, public speaking, taking men to the Outback and working with Aboriginals, workshops and personally challenging men.


FINDING A NEW WAY IN THE OTWAYS

FINDING A NEW WAY IN THE OTWAYS

By Gareth Andrews

 

 

An unplanned trip taught me about getting to know places and friends. I was born and bred in Geelong. I feel quite proud about it, though many of my colleagues still give me that ‘‘poor you’’ look. Back in the ’50s Geelong didn’t appear to have much going for it, but that didn’t stop my father telling me how lucky we were to be born there.

He was on the city council for half a lifetime and mayor from 1959 to 1961. He went to Europe a couple of times, came home, took us kids down to the foreshore, and told us there was ‘‘nothing over there’’ which was a patch on Corio Bay.

‘‘Toss them all together – Lake Como, French Riviera, Lake Geneva, the lot – and none of them would be a patch on the pure beauty of Geelong.’’

For our summer holidays, from Christmas Eve until the end of January, he would take us all the way down to Torquay, plonk us in our asbestos-clad holiday house, and feel that he didn’t need to go a step further. About 16 miles in the old language. Not far, but far enough. He even threw the dozen or so chooks into the boot in a hessian bag because they would have to come with us. About half of them lived to tell the story each year.

The Ford Prefect was too small to cart around the family of six, petrol was ‘‘expensive’’, and in the main we didn’t want to travel with the old man as he’d puff on his pipe with the windows tightly wound up. He wouldn’t offer and we wouldn’t ask.

For 20 years Anglesea, Aireys Inlet and Lorne weren’t on our radar. Too far. Apollo Bay wasn’t even mooted. Wye River – where’s that? It was the front beach, the surf beach, Fisho’s or my mate’s backyard for the endless summer Test match, all at Torquay.

My reason for dragging up this history is to defend my total lack of local knowledge of an area that would be seen as in my ’hood. I’m talking about the Otways, the large chunk of heaven that lies about 50 kilometres from Torquay.

Of course, since those youthful days, I’ve been down the Great Ocean Road many times, I’ve holidayed at Lorne, overnighted atWye River, wined and dined at Skene’s Creek, swum and run along many parts of the shoreline. But I’d never been into the Otways ... and no, seeing Erskine Falls doesn’t count. It was only recently that I finally got to see the Great Otway National Park. Like some of the best things that happen in life, it was totally unplanned and unstructured.

It taught me about a friend I’d known my whole life but who I never ‘‘knew’’. It taught me about how simple it can be to get away from our screens or lethargy and add depth and wisdom to our lives. It taught me again to get off my arse and not waste another minute of my precious time.

It started with a random phone call, followed with the classic ‘‘we must catch up!’’. This time I really meant it. He was in Lorne. I was in Melbourne. The call had ended. Bugger it – no time like the present. I rang straight back and arranged for a two-night sleepover a couple of weeks later. There was no further planning needed – that’s what blokes are like.

Let’s give this friend a name. Johnny will do. Johnny had been a Geelong/ Lorne boy for as long as I’d been a Geelong/Torquay boy. Although we’d grown up living in the same street, the tyranny of distance in our education and schooling meant we knew very little of each other. He excelled in sports but he wasn’t a footballer. Our paths rarely crossed, two men knowing ‘‘of’’ but not quite ‘‘knowing’’ each other.

I thought we’d just hang out for the day at Lorne, but Johnny had other ideas.

‘‘Let’s go to the Otways for the day. We’ll drive off along the coast and turn into the Ranges at Kennett River. By the way, have you ever seen the Redwood Forest?We’ll buy mineral water, a bit of fruit, some sausages, and take a BBQ. We’ll put a bucket of water in the boot to put the fire out. You’ll love the
redwoods.’’

We hardly get the opportunity to go off-script in our modern lives. Johnny had decided that we had to lose ourselves for the day in ‘‘his’’ Otways, and see what we could discover. Redwoods? I thought. I had seen the mighty sequoias in California ... but in the Otways? Pretty far-fetched.

We lazily left Lorne and drove to Kennett. The international tour bus brigade had beaten us there, with a king parrot and cockatoo bird-feeding frenzy in full swing.We drove off left through the small crowd and instantly we were in the misty forest. There were still
plenty of tourist outriders, discovering koalas in the wild within walking distance.

We were getting deeper into the Otways, reaching the wet, misty forests that cloak their south-facing slopes. This is the home of the mighty mountain ash and their smaller masters-at-arms, the blackwoods. At their feet, a diversity of ferns, including the ubiquitous tree ferns and the bat’s wing fern. From the driver’s seat Johnny was a wealth of knowledge, and I soaked it in.

In the meantime, we discovered tales that probably neither of us had been brave enough to tell. It had taken this drive to flush it all out.We were cocooned by the forest. Perhaps we were humbled among nature’s ancient giants. Our phone connection was limited and Googling was out of the question.We were digging deep. Coasting down the sinuous Turton’s Track, it seemed we were at the edge of the world. I remember reading somewhere that this 12-kilometre stretch is numbered one of the five most incredible rainforest drives in Australia.

‘‘In my childhood, my father loved to take us on ‘adventures’,’’ Johnny told me. ‘‘One of his special places was Turton’s Track. He would turn off the engine, release the handbrake, then roll ‘Jane’, our old 1951 Plymouth, silently down the long, winding, gentle and unmade slope. The scents of the forest would jostle with the impossibly tall, straight mountain ash and with the dripping green prehistory of the Dicksonia antarctica tree ferns nipping at the open windows.’’

Johnny said how wonderful it was to sense and feel the same hush and awe from me as his father must have felt from him those many years ago. He then launched into the Aboriginal history of the Otways. He knew all about the lyrically named Gadubanud tribe and their five clans: the Bangura, the Guringid, the Ngalla, the Ngarowurd and the Yan Yan Gurt.

Despite their having called these forests home for centuries, they have been all but forgotten. Locally the names now used are almost exclusively those of our earlier settlers or early sailors. One name that especially galled John was that given to the Otways’ highest peak, Mount Cowley, named for an early area surveyor: ‘‘How could the name of a syphilitic drunkard grace this nimportant landmark?What about some of the Aboriginal options?’’

Having passed the impressive Hopetoun Falls, we had reached the Redwood Forest. Following my Californian experience, it was thrilling to find a small plantation deep in an Australian wilderness. I subsequently learned that these sequoia sempervirens were originally planted in 1932 as a logging experiment but were never cut down.

Standing at 60 metres they are still only half the height of their fellow Californians, but with the rich soils and plentiful water of the Otways it is likely that they may grow to be the tallest stand of trees in the world. Sadly I won’t be here to see that, but I suspect many will. Stretching your neck up to the sky or lying down against a tree in the soft mulch of leaves is a special and serene experience. It’s a fairytale. It is magic. Yet, it had taken me over threescore years and ten to find it.

Completing the road down to Apollo Bay and then taking the Great Ocean Road back to Lorne, Johnny had kept his promise. I had experienced a different, more humbling and tranquil Otways.

To think this has been at my back door all my life.We all have to dig a little deeper.

 

Author’s Bio
Gareth Andrews - Founder and Director of Life Again, a registered Not for Profit charity that educates and helps men to change and lead more fulfilling and purposeful lives. Through writing, public speaking, taking men to the Outback and working with Aboriginals, workshops and personally challenging men.


TERRY WATERS RISES ABOVE THE PACK

MY FLATMATE, THE COLLINGWOOD CAPTAIN: TERRY WATERS RISES ABOVE THE PACK

By Gareth Andrews

 

 

I can clearly recall the song Welsh-born Mary Hopkins sang in 1968. The lyrics tell the story of the time: “Those were the days my friend. We thought they’d never end. We’d sing and dance forever and a day.”

It was a great time to be alive and young. It was a great time to be playing VFL football. It was only two years later that I met Terry Waters. 1970: 50 years ago, 50 years before COVID-19, 50 years since a dagger was stuck through every Magpie’s heart as they lost the unlosable grand final.

It still seems like yesterday and by a quirky fate I was in the middle of it. How did this Geelong player get tangled up in all of this? The truth is I wasn’t tangled but I watched from close range and bled for my new mate.

Late in 1969 I was playing with the Cats, working and living in Melbourne and looking for a new flat and flatmate. My old one had moved on and through a friend of a friend I discovered that Collingwood star Terry Waters had a spare room in Avoca Street, South Yarra. I’d only seen Terry on the field and admired his skills and agility. We knew each other by name only but the rent was cheap, the room was huge, the location was perfect, and he seemed OK for a Collingwood player.

In fact, it was around that time that Des Tuddenham and Len Thompson put it on the club for more pay and Tuddy lost the captaincy. I was now flatting with the new Collingwood captain. Tuddy and Thommo played on.

If you saw the flat you would understand why the rent was cheap. You would also understand why Tuddy was wanting more money. Footy back then didn’t lead to anything grandiose. Quite the opposite. Everything was old in appearance and practicality. The carpet was threadbare and a layer of dust had filled the gaps. When Irish the resident red setter couldn’t sometimes make it to the door in time the result was untraceable on the carpet. We discovered the hard way.

Terry Waters, left, in action against Footscray in 1971. CREDIT:THE AGE

As the year went on, Terry and I became good mates. First and foremost Terry Waters was a great bloke. Usually on a Saturday morning we would take turns to cook breakfast. The kitchen was a disaster zone, but our cooking didn’t devalue it in any way. We would then go out in the backyard and start handling the ball. Short kicks, handpasses, baulking each other and taking the total mickey out of each other.

 

In round 15 of July 1970 we were due to play each other at Victoria Park. Geelong were sitting fifth and Collingwood first. A crackerjack game was expected and Terry and myself went into our caves. I was playing well at the time and eventually came runner-up for the season with Geelong.

On the Thursday night I went down to Geelong to train and Terry trained with the Pies. Being captain, he sat on the selection committee as was done those days at some clubs. They sat after training.

We arrived back in South Yarra later that evening and Terry said: “We’ve got a special plan for you, Andrews.” I didn’t give it a thought.

Come Saturday morning, the stand-off continued. About two hours before the game he asked me how I was getting there. I said “by car” knowing that I’d be parking about a mile from the ground. He had the prime position beside the entrance gate. He reluctantly said I could come with him.

Somewhere well short of Johnston Street and the ground, he pulled over and asked me to get out. He didn’t want anyone to see him with me. I might as well have driven.

A big crowd was in and the toss proceeded between the two captains – Terry Waters and Bill Goggin. I took my starting position and just before the siren was sounded, my flatmate walked up beside me and in his flattest, cheekiest voice said, “I’m the special plan”.

The Pies won by 29 points. I’ve just discovered that Geelong had me as second best for them on the day. Terry didn’t figure. I’m glad I couldn’t ever tell him that. He wouldn’t believe it.

We remained long-term mates. Twice I almost lost his friendship as I asked both Terry and Teddy Hopkins – of 1970 grand final fame (or infamy from a Magpie view) – to be guests on a function table. Teddy had become a mate of mine, but Terry hadn’t become a mate of Teddy.
Terry loved Collingwood and the whole Magpie army loved Terry. Terry never forgot where he came from and was proudly a Dandenong boy to the end. Family, friends, workmates and old flatmates were all blessed and plain lucky to be part of his life.

 

Author’s Bio
Gareth Andrews - Founder and Director of Life Again, a registered Not for Profit charity that educates and helps men to change and lead more fulfilling and purposeful lives. Through writing, public speaking, taking men to the Outback and working with Aboriginals, workshops and personally challenging men.


NATURE

NATURE

By Gareth Andrews

I might never go back to a gym. For 17 years I’ve assiduously trained with my amazing trainer Emma twice a week and seemingly kept various gyms in business. Despite the need for gyms to play increasingly loud music and for people to talk on phones whilst pressing weights (which of course shouldn’t affect me), I have persevered. There was no alternative was there? But then along came Covid and the gyms were closed. Emma and I headed to the park and I had an unexpected awakening. Exercise took on a whole new dimension.

being outside in Nature is perhaps the safest way to find healing and solace.

With fixed park benches, mats, a few kettle bells, straps that suggested erotic entanglements, and other similar small apparatus, we discovered a whole new world. The early autumn mornings were cold and testing but often the glorious sun arose. We are now into our second Covid coming and winter is even more of a challenge; but something hasn’t changed – the glorious outdoors and the magnificence of nature. Last week I lay on my mat for five minutes after my workout (I think that’s allowed) and stared up at the mighty canopy above. My heart was pumping from the workout. It seemed like an extra exertion had been made. Out of my designated cave it was good to be alive.

It was during the drama of the bushfires early this year that I began to think more clearly about the great outdoors and the importance of nature in our lives. I felt almost equal grief for the people who were suffering as I felt for the loss of our majestic forests. It was a tragedy whichever way you looked at it and, for possibly the first time ever, I felt the power of what we were all losing. Trees that are centuries old, some of them powerful giants of immense beauty, are irreplaceable in our lifetimes. We will miss them but over time they will regrow and future generations will enjoy them. The earth is eternal – we are not, although certain beliefs argue that we are. But that’s for another day!

Connection to Self and Others is the essence of life

My late arrival at the importance of nature in my life had grown from my personal search for meaning and ongoing building of the Life Again story of Connection. Connection to Self and Others is the essence of life but through my trips into the Australian Outback I realised the emotional energy that comes from connection to country – and so the land – was almost an equally vital part of the jigsaw. As I studied the Aboriginal manner of culling and protecting their forests and bush, I understood that they understood. They understood that we are all in this together. Man and Land.

And as suggested earlier, it was during the first Covid lockdown I realised absolutely how important nature is for all of us. We are born into nature. That very word, nature, comes from the Latin natus meaning “born” and this is the essence of who we are – part of Nature from the moment we’re born. The bigger and more crowded cities become, the more technology becomes all-consuming, the larger our egos, the greater our disconnection from others, the more our souls cry out for what’s real. No wonder the explosion of desperation and the resultant cries for help during Covid. But Covid has only exacerbated our labyrinth of woes. It’s how we live. Especially during lockdown.

but something hasn’t changed – the glorious outdoors and the magnificence of nature.

But we can change the mix. CONNECTION TO NATURE is a critical Pillar of Life Again. I am certainly not the only one to recognise the link. It’s a call-out from all quarters. I have been reading some amazing books recently which seem to be a part of a movement. They are not political although they have their political undertones. The Overstory by American Richard Powers won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2019 and was described by Tim Winton as “A masterpiece”.  The UK Sunday Times called it “An immense and intense homage to the arboreal world”. To me it’s a total call to nature. I know so little. And my new favourite I’m reading is Fathoms, a book on whales by Australian Rebecca Giggs. It shows us how we might feel about animals in a time of technological change and ecological crises. Again, it takes me away from the murky world we are living in and lifts me back into a world of light and possibilities. It’s refreshing. It’s like the breeze blowing on my face. As I recently read, in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, being outside in Nature is perhaps the safest way to find healing and solace.

The key is that the moment you get out of lockdown unrestricted is the moment you can unlock this opportunity to begin again. For starters, travelling abroad will be impossible for some time so it’s the opportunity to explore your city, your state, your country. How wonderful is that? Think positively about what you will see when you’re out there. Some of these places you may have seen before – often many times – but imagine seeing them through new eyes, through fresh eyes, through inquisitive eyes, through “thinking” eyes.

As I lay down last week looking up from my exercise mat, I heard a noise. A young lady walking through the park. She had technology hanging off her head, her ears, her hands. Her head was down. It was as if she was wandering through a wonderland blindfolded. I wished I could have said something to her. But she wouldn’t have heard. Sadly, she’s not alone.

 

Author’s Bio
Gareth Andrews - Founder and Director of Life Again, a registered Not for Profit charity that educates and helps men to change and lead more fulfilling and purposeful lives. Through writing, public speaking, taking men to the Outback and working with Aboriginals, workshops and personally challenging men.


START YOUR LIFE AGAIN WITH NEW STRATEGIES

START YOUR LIFE AGAIN WITH NEW STRATEGIES

By Gareth Andrews

 

 

It’s a difficult time in everybody’s life at the moment. We are all an island unto ourselves as we deal with the hand that we have been dealt. We all handle it in our own way and the pressure can be totally dependent on our stage of life. Young kids are demanding, but so are older kids. The expectations we put on ourselves differ between us. Some like the quiet life at home, others are cut from a different cloth and need to get away. Marriage or relationships can carry their own burden with the pressure cooker effect that isolation can impose.

In my life, I’ve only ever been able to imagine the devastation to people’s lives that World Wars inflict. My parents went through this as young home makers and parents. Their lives started with the First World War. Imagine. The Corona epidemic is giving us our own window into what that might have looked like. Fortunately at the time, they didn’t have the 24 hour endless barrage of news from the “front”. They were able to get on with their lives – totally restricted of course – but without the brutal analyses and updates.

I have always written notes on my thoughts, feelings, ideas, emotions and moods

I have always written notes on my thoughts, feelings, ideas, emotions and moods, and words from books I’ve been reading. I’ve got various diaries of random size and type which sit near, at hand. Importantly, when I had major difficulties at stages of my life and felt the roof closing in – or crushing in at times – I always put my thoughts down in writing.

But my one really important book is the A4 RED Collins note book. It sticks out like a sore thumb. I started it in 2001, in the middle of my major melt down, and it became my bible of how I wanted to live my life and how I had to change. I still add deep and meaningful stuff, as it comes along. This book has become my partner during the toughest of times.

I’ve been in this place before – and survived.

And today, these are the toughest of times. This note book reminds me that I’ve been in this place before – and survived. It reminds me that catastrophes are common in life and that we are resilient. It reminds me that suffering teaches us something. It reminds me that these times will pass. It is sitting beside me as I write. This is a good time for us all to develop our own red book of life.

Opening mine now, what have I told myself?

Firstly, the inside cover page outlines the things I must DO, every day, to protect myself. “Daily/ Regular Actions for Body and Mind” are pretty basic things and amongst them are healthy eating, fitness (and the various options), rest (which we all forget) and meditation (which I practice and recommend to all). It’s a full list and they couldn’t all be done in a day, let alone a work day, but at some stage they have to be actioned by me to help me maintain my sanity. We could all draw up this sort of list and SIGN it. If I had my time over again, it’s the sort of list I would have shared with my wife, and hopefully she might have been encouraged to do one herself. You may laugh, but right now, let’s start thinking differently about each other.

The next page talks about important things to me

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Health
  • Love
  • Nature
  • Sport
  • Time
  • Empathy and Compassion

The interesting point in all of this is that the word Money does not come into into this.

The interesting point in all of this is that the word Money does not come into this. It is critical in itself, as is Work, but I never regarded them as being the essence of who I was.

Now the next two pages are pretty scary. Written in 2003, post-divorce and post-depression, it is a letter to myself. “My Life Plan. How I See Myself In The Future.” As I read it again now and without divulging any secrets, I find it confronting. I have done a good deal of “work” on myself but I’ve got a fair way to go. Often when I get off-track again the book reminds me to refocus. It’s a bit like not honouring your New Year’s Eve resolution. It’s just that the red book is more serious than that.

Then I have more than two pages of AFFIRMATIONS. These are Positive Affirmations, and when I’m feeling shithouse I read them out loud – to the mirror! For example…
“I let go of old ways of thinking, and I access awareness.”
“Now. I choose to stay fully present in the now, and this is the place that I will come to know.”

These might sound pretty wanky and of course you may have different ideas of your own. Write them down or Google Positive Affirmations. They challenge negativity and this challenge is upon us now.

The book continues with a bit of a wish list, although not of the “100 Countries type.” It included a couple of overseas Test cricket trips. It was written around 2000, and I predestined myself to form Life Again. I actually did a 10-day Vipassana Silent Meditation retreat that makes Covid 19 look like a walk in the park.

The balance of the book is notes from people I’ve trusted and admired, including my personal counsellor of many years – he’s been my friend and mentor and has been critical in my life.

Writing is so cathartic, for anybody, and what better time to write than now

Opening this book has taken me back on my journey. And what I haven’t emphasised yet is how important the writing has been through all stages of my life. Writing is so cathartic, for anybody, and what better time to write than now when our mind has moved into this new and testing time?

There is no better time than now to bring the diary of your life up to date and think about the future. For rest assured, it will be a brand new world we are moving into. The past is history.

 

Author’s Bio
Gareth Andrews - Founder and Director of Life Again, a registered Not for Profit charity that educates and helps men to change and lead more fulfilling and purposeful lives. Through writing, public speaking, taking men to the Outback and working with Aboriginals, workshops and personally challenging men.