Saturday, 28 February 2015

Old Friends Are The Best Friends

If you live to be 100, I hope to live to be 100 minus one day, so I never have to live without you.
~ Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne

To my bestie, on the occasion of your birthday (not a big one but on the downhill slide).

I remember the moment I met you, on the stairwell outside our Year 7 classroom the first day of high school. It was the end of January 1981 and I was just about to start my first year of high school in a big town 40 minutes drive from my home. I was from a small country village and the whole high-school thing was daunting to a socially awkward 11 year old only starting to find her place in the world. I was never one to makes friends easily, most of the time I simply preferred my own company or hung out with others who didn't fit in. I never ran with the in-crowd.

My mother's best friend, a woman of immense wisdom, told me to look out for a girl who would also be coming a long way from another small school and would know no-one. She was your school librarian, and said the same thing to you about me. She knew a perfect match when she saw one. From that moment on the stairwell we were woven together in the fabric of one universe. We were two outliers, and this would be the start of our unbreakable bond that has so far stretched 34 years. We joke about how long we have been besties, that it is the longest relationship of our lives. It's funny but it's true, if you take out family there is no one I've been closer to for longer.

From that first day at school we developed a friendship that lapped over into our out-of-school lives; spending many weekends together and going on each other's family holidays. We became extended family, and our parents just accepted as we got into our later teens that if we were nowhere to be found we must therefore be together and mostly out of harm's way. When I say mostly out of harm's way I'm including the time we drove down Sexton's Hill and the bonnet flew up on the jeep and you had to drive with your head out the window. I'm including the trip to Stradbroke Island in the campervan by ourselves when we seriously could have been axe-murdered by those guys and no one would have known. This was the first time I drank too much, and I remembered thinking how heavy my feet were as I wobbled across the caravan park.

I'm including all the times we found something (anything!) better to do than go to school sport and had to hear our names bellowed across the school assembly by Mrs. O'Brien the next day. I'm including the time camping when the spider came into my tent; the less said about that the better. I'm including the time we rode Melanie and another horse across the big paddock mostly out of control and you ended up on your backside and I thought I'd killed you. I'm including the time we climbed Mt. Warning and got soaked to the skin then went back into Murwillumbah wearing not a stitch of clothing but our long yellow raincoats. And I can't possibly leave out how we painted the top floor of your house apricot while your parents were away. They might have been less mad if you had moved the piano instead of painting around it.

Our friendship survived you leaving to another school. I loved how you wrote to me, telling me often how crap being a boarder was and what evil bitches the nuns were. I still have some of your postcards and letters from this time in our lives. I was lost at my school without you too, even if I did make friends with the nuns. After school we swirled in different directions for a few years, going to uni in different states, keeping in touch by letter and phone while spending time getting on with the business of finding out who we were. You were always my touchstone, the one against whom I measured all friendships. There were none to be had like you.

We both married in the same year in the mid-nineties; yours would last the distance, mine would become a car-crash after a few short years. We did the bridesmaid thing for each other with fluffy dresses and much fussing, most of it by long distance as you lived in the far north of Queensland and we both married on the Gold Coast. I remember losing my contact lens at your wedding and that it was so hot (January) sweat beads dripped from the end of my nose during the ceremony staining my taffeta bosom. I remember you fussing around me at my wedding, straightening my veil and attending to me when my matron of honour was lacking. I think you knew my first marriage was a mistake, but what I loved about you then and still do, is that you stand by me and my decisions even if you think I'm making the wrong one. And you are always there to pick up the pieces with me.

After that it's history, we've been back living close at hand to each other for more than 15 years. There are so many stories I could tell about our life together and so many photos I could blog for years. There is so much I could thank you for I don't even know where to start. So I'll just pick a few that come to mind. Thank you for coming to Hawaii with me by yourself leaving your whole family at home so we could have the girl's week we had booked, even though you were by then 4 months pregnant and already the size of the Hindenburg. Me - I had no excuse. We ate our way around Waikiki Beach like pros.

Thank you for always being there, knowing what needs to be done and just doing it. For the times you brought me casseroles when I was living and studying in Brisbane. For feeding me more than once or twice a week when we lived on Tamborine Mountain and I was batching it in the Rainforest House. For not only feeding my mum and Stan when mum was sick but the Brashness and I as well; I'll always think of my mum when I look at your lasagna.

Thank you for holding my hair while I threw up in the toilet at our hen's night for two. Thank you for being someone I can call when a tree falls on my car and you just find another car for me the same night (true). Thank you for helping me move more than a few times and being able to clear my head when I was just running in circles. I've never met anyone who can pack and unpack a house like you can.

Thank you for being a constant when I've had the rug pulled out from under me, for being a friend who loves me unconditionally and unvaryingly regardless of where I'm at in the universe. Thank you for sharing my disappointments, sadness, losses and grief, and not projecting your own expectations onto my situation. Thank you for always telling me when you thought I was making a mistake but you'd still love me and support my decision regardless. Thank you for never once judging me or saying I told you so, even when I really, sorely deserved it.

When I doubt myself even in my sometimes spectacular victories you are ready with your oft-repeated phrase that you never once doubted me for a second. Thank you for being there to share my successes because I know without you none of it would have been possible. It is your solid belief in me that has kept and still keeps me striving to achieve to my potential, even when I have had to change boats midstream more than once in my life.

Thank you for being my rudder when I was lost at sea.

Someday I expect we'll act out our long-held old-age fantasy of eating our way around Europe together before going into the same retirement village to eat ice cream, fried food and soft cheese all day (with our husbands of course). Until then, I'll raise a glass again with you to the last 34 years together and I look forward to the next 34, because old friends really are the best friends.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Australia, You're Standing In It

Well bloggers I'm back! Sorry I've been missing in action but I've been just a little bit BUSY! If you live outside of Australia you won't know that my home state of Queensland has been caught up in election fever for more than a month. I've had the great privilege and responsibility of being involved in campaigning for Penny Toland, the local Labor candidate standing for the seat of Broadwater here on the Gold Coast. So if you're a conservative voter, best look away now :)
The beautiful Broadwater area of the Gold Coast shot from Harley Park in Labrador
It's kinda fun seeing your photos plastered everywhere!
A headshot of Penny layered on a photo of the Broadwater, part of her electorate
Penny speaking at a Public Health Forum hosted by Labor in August of 2014
I've always believed in social justice. Not in a welfare state, or a socialist state, but a true system of government supporting society's most vulnerable and redistributing accumulated wealth, be it accumulated by government or individuals. It will never happen, because people will always be people. Even those of us who strongly hold these ideals are well flawed, but unless we have an ideal to strive for what tends to happen is we don't strive for anything at all. We settle, and we lead boring little inward-focused lives.
Another shot of the Broadwater looking back at Broadwater Parklands in Southport
The Brashness and I stumbling across Penny at a Multicultural Festival
Penny, Gail Hislop and Melissa McMahon speaking at a luncheon
to address issues in education with guest speaker The Hon. Tanya Plibersek MP
Penny Toland Labor Candidate for Broadwater, The Hon. Tanya Plibersek MP,
Gail Hislop Labor Candidate for Burleigh, and Melissa McMahon Labor
Candidate for Albert (look at all that girl power!!!)
It started through the viewfinder for me, as have many relationships in my life. In August of 2014 I was invited to shoot a series of images of Penny Toland, a newly endorsed candidate, starting with headshots for her campaign. I'd been a Labor Party member for a long time, but I'd never been this close to a politician, even a potential one. It was exciting. What was more exciting was the exposure to like-minded people that this experience then brought about, and the refinement of what I actually believed in down to a set of principles.

AH MAH GERD I got to meet Tanya Plibersek!
I almost passed out.

The life of a photographer is such that you are
rarely in any shots yourself. Here's some proof I took these!
Things escalated quickly after that. I found myself not only shooting for Penny's campaign but for neighbouring candidates, also attending and shooting at almost every public event or rally with an aligning cause. The big cause and source of many rallies for Broadwater was opposition to the planned development of the Broadwater itself, about which I have blogged before. Just for the record, I was not paid nor asked for payment for any of this work - all of the photography and other work I have done for the Party was totally voluntary, as it was from every other person who helped on the campaign.

Nurses and midwives from NSW come to Queensland to rally for taxation
changes supporting public health
Penny addresses the faithful at her campaign launch
Penny's campaign launch in November 2014
The Brashness and I get our pinko on at Penny's campaign launch
Members of Young Labor at Penny's campaign launch
Then in November of 2014 I had an opportunity to become part of Penny's campaign team as they planned strategy for the upcoming election. I jumped at the chance and became (to my surprise and consternation at the time) the Volunteer Coordinator. For someone who doesn't like people all that much this seemed a surprising appointment but as it turns out I was actually quite competent at it. Mainly because I had no choice but to rise to the challenge and I am spectacularly good at making things up as I go along.

Out meeting people in the electorate with Penny and Campaign Manager Richard
This and following images showing the Labor presence at a
community rally to save the Broadwater area

See I was actually there!

As it stood we knew the election could be held anytime until June. When it was called on 6th January 2015, throwing us into a mere 24 day campaign, we hit the ground running and I headed into what would be the most hectic, exciting, intense and fulfilling 3 weeks of my life. Over those few weeks until election day I used every skill I'd ever mastered and all the accumulated knowledge of my education and experience.

One of my headshots for Surfer's Paradise Labor
candidate Josh Blundell-Thornton (watch this face!)
I love seeing my photos on things lol (my headshot, stock background image)
Penny, Josh and myself at Josh's campaign launch
More things with my photos on them!
This was a raffle prize. Sadly, though I bought SO
many tickets, I didn't win (sigh)
I learnt something new every day and found myself honing my problem-solving skills to a razor-sharp point.
I learnt to deal with calls and emails as they came in, there and then, and then put them to bed.
I learnt to put out fires as they happened before they could escalate.

Setting up a marquee at pre-polling (early voting prior to election day)
Penny with some dedicated volunteers at pre-polling
Senator Chris Ketter, myself and Penny hitting the streets (well I was there
to take photos, Penny and the Senator hit the streets to talk to voters)
AH MAH GERD!!!! Meeting Labor legend Anthony Albanese at an afternoon tea
This one went straight to the pool room. Anthony Albanese, a Labor hero and
all round totally good guy
I learnt to effectively delegate, stick to a role description, and let go of things outside my role or my control.
I learnt that sometimes silence and taking a step back is as effective as batting on.
I learnt that deep down inside me I really do have what it takes to be an awesome team player. Even if sometimes I have to take that step back.

Michael Riordan, Labor Candidate for Gaven, our
own electorate. This was the day we went to vote
Penny addressing the community with other Gold Coast Labor Candidates at a
forum to discuss plans for the Broadwater area. Candidates from all political
parties were invited to this forum and many attended
I wish I had recorded Penny's inspiring speech here she held the crowd in her hand
I learnt to get my point across in 25 words or less in a way that the other party could not misinterpret my meaning.
I learnt that sometimes you have to pick your battles.
I learnt that the best way to not get seasick is to be concentrating on something else, like maybe trying to photograph politicians in another boat speeding away from you.

Harley Park where we had a marquee set up daily to engage and talk with locals
about issues
Campaign committee members ready for QLD Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk's
arrival at Harley Park
A demonstration on Wavebreak Island in the centre of the Broadwater protesting proposed development and reclaiming Wavebreak for the people. Annastacia Palaszczuk and Penny (and a bunch of the campaign committee members!) travelled across to the island to address the crowds
I learnt that some people will always choose to be limited by their own beliefs system.
I learnt that sometimes you have to stand up for yourself and make yourself heard over the white noise.
I learnt that politicians are people, just like you and me (mind you knowing that didn't stop me acting like a groupie at a Rod Stewart concert when I met some of them).

The view from the tiny tinny I was in looking back toward the coast as I sped across to Wavebreak Island
Annastacia and Penny travel across to Wavebreak Island
This looks like such an easy shot but taken as it was from one bouncing, speeding
boat of another, thank goodness for big zoom lenses and high shutter speeds
I knew that no matter what, you can always dig down inside and find a little bit more of something, be it energy, resourcefulness, time, patience, or courage. I'd already learnt this from my mother.

Penny and Annastacia on Wavebreak Island. I hope they slip, slop, slapped!
Annastacia addressing the community gathered on Wavebreak promising no
development of the area by a Labor state government
Penny and Steve Gration, head of Save Our Spit
Heading back to the mainland
Election day has come and gone but it's not over yet; counting is incomplete, there is no clear state winner in sight and the threat of returning to the polls is still in the air. No matter what the outcome I know that myself and the rest of the campaign team did our absolute utmost to get our candidate and the Party over the line, and our efforts did not go unnoticed.

The Broadwater campaign team ready to take the fight into the future
I think the most important thing I learnt from this experience is that being part of something much bigger than I am is maybe, just maybe, the reason I'm actually here.