Engelbert, I finally found you!

Judge G and Mum circa....previous century ;-)

Judge G and Mum circa....previous century 😉

Ever since Mum died earlier this year, I’ve been searching for just the right Engelbert Humperdinck compilation. Why? Because Mum loved Engelbert and she had an EP that she and I used to play a lot when I was a kid. It had four songs on it and I needed to havethem all on one CD. It wasn’t easy to find…I tried for ages.

The songs are:
Release Me
The Last Waltz (which I wanted played as the last song at Mum’s funeral but gave in so there wouldn’t be any drama)
There Goes My Everything
Ten Guitars

Ten Bloody Guitars! Do you think I could find a compilation with all four on! 3 yes but no ‘Ten Guitars’. I trawled online shopping sites, CD-Wow and local shops to no avail. Then a week or so ago, JB Hi-Fi was having a sale and Yoda and I decided to check it. We got a bus to Leichhardt and went to a not-so-spectacular JB HiFi branch. But there it was!

I was absent mindedly wandering around the store and decided to have another pointless look at the Engelbert section and found this gem of a compilation:

Engelbert Humperdinck...At His Very Best

Engelbert Humperdinck...At His Very Best

I don’t know why it hadn’t turned up in my previous searching efforts. It was released in Australia to co-incide with a tour here at the beginning of the decade. Not only did it have everything I want and more…but it was 20% off because of the sale! I was happy as a pig in…well, you know 😉

Of everything that happened in and around the funeral and how I related to it then and how I’ve felt about losing Mum since, these songs are the main thing that make me feel close to her. And remember her in the good times before the accident and the dementia. There should be a million other things that trigger positive memories but, for some reason, I’m focussed on goold old Engelbert Humperdinck and those mornings in the early 70s when I would play the EP for Mum – just occasionally – before I got on my bike and went off to school.

Now about ‘Ten Guitars’, the lyric starts with ‘I have a band of men and all they do is play for me…’

I think there’s something in that for all of us, don’t you? ;-p


Saying goodbye to Mum

Mum & me at my 21st party

Mum & me at my 21st party

A parcel arrived from my brother on Friday. t was the DVD of my mother’s funeral. I remember being quite disconcerted at the time because of the roving video camera and not understanding why someone was videoing a funeral.

Well apparently it is all the rage thesedays and no doubt a great little revenue raiser for the funeral company.

Anyway, it was something my brother and niece wanted so I wasn’t going to make a fuss.

It arrived with a proper cover and proper label. The disc looked like it was a professional release – something you’d buy in JB HiFi.

I haven’t had the inclination to sit down and actually watch it yet – I think I’m going to have to be in the right mood. But it did trigger this post.

Tapping away on this tiny netbook I remembered that it was on this that I wrote the speech I made on the day of Mum’s funeral. I was in a motel room and it was late at night, the night before the service and I had a lot of trouble getting it right.

I knew I wanted something ”up” and ”fun” because everyone else would be sombre and sad and I felt that humour was a big part of my mother’s life. I wanted to say some fun things about her and about my relationship with her instead of being depressing and sad.

I had a look through the files on this little machine and found the draft of the speech and decided I’d upload it here. I’m really glad I kept it – it comforts me to read it again from time to time.

Mum’s been gone for almost two months now and in some ways it seems more like two years. Once you get back to work and into the craziness of your everyday life, the days and weeks just fly past in a blur.

Anyway, here’s what I said at Mum’s funeral…

“When I was born my Mum was hoping for a girl – I was going to be called ‘Tracy Dawn’. Mum might have got half her wish because I did end up being a big ‘Mummy’s Boy’ as a kid. But I wasn’t a good little ‘Mummy’s Boy’, I was actually a naughty little bastard as a kid.

One of the most enduring and endearing memories I have of Mum is her shouting and nagging at me…

Clean your room, it‘s a pig-sty!

Don’t walk on the kitchen floor – I’ve just polished it!

Get up, you’ll be late for school!

Don’t swear, you know I don’t like it!

In fact, she could have won an Olympic Gold medal for nagging.

I listened but I didn’t obey. Pretty much like my other 2 brothers I guess.

Dot was a tough old broad with a heart of gold. She had a very clear sense of what was right and what was wrong. I can remember being chased around the house and threatened with the strap many a time. I got the strap many a time too – cos I bloody-well deserved it!

I might not have quite lived up to her standards as a kid – but, when push came to shove, it really didn’t matter – because she loved all of her 3 boys fiercely and completely. Even with all of our failings.

I just crack up now when I think of all the times she’d say ‘what will the neighbours think’ or ‘what will the relatives think.”’ She was always ways very concerned about her boys appearing respectable in public

‘You’re not going into town dressed like that are you,?’, she’d say

As a kid I had to get “dressed up” to go into town, or if I was going to go to the movies or if we were visiting relatives or even if I had an appointment at the dentist…But I suppose I shouldn’t complain…my eldest brother was forced to wear a variety of sailor suits when he was a kid – at least I was spared that.

When I started high school, I was one of only 2 kids out of 800 that wore the full school uniform including the proper school blazer. I can still remember going to John Martin’s with Mum to get the right blazer, the right tie and the right shoes. She was a woman on a mission. She didn’t want people saying that her boy doesn’t have the proper uniform.

I’d like to say that this attention to image influenced me to become a snazzy dresser but, like my other 2 siblings, I ended up becoming a slob as an adult…sorry about that Mum – you tried!

Mum had high hopes for me as a kid in the beginning – she wanted me to play tennis, play football, to learn a musical instrument – and she desperately wanted me to be just like all the other kids.

But I was always a weird kid and did my own thing. I didn’t do any of those things Mum wanted – but she coped.

I actually got to spend a lot of quality time with her both as a kid and as a teenager. I loved to go shopping with her in town on Friday afternoons – to Myers Bargain Basement, to Harris Scarfes, John Martins, Cox Foys and everywhere else. The woman was a shopaholic and that is something I have definitely inherited from her.

When I was little I loved to spend time with her. I guess lots of times I was under her feet as she did the housework and the washing and the ironing – (Dotty was housework obsessed). But I just really loved being with her and talking about anything and everything.

She was involved in most aspects of my life as a kid – especially when I started an ABBA fan club at the age of 15. I put Mum to work answering fan mail, helping me fold newsletters and doing whatever else needed to be done. And as with most things, she didn’t complain, she just did it.

Mum welcomed the friends I made through the fan club with open arms. She talked with them, listened to their problems, fed them and occasionally, acted as a surrogate mother to them.

I think Mum had the gift of acceptance more than anything. She might not have always approved of what I did or said or how I acted but ultimately she accepted me and loved me.

I did put this acceptance to the test quite a few times. When I was about 20 I went through a phase of experimenting with my hair. I told Mum I was having an afro perm done. She wasn’t happy but she tried not to be too judgemental.

The afternoon I had the perm done, Mum, Dad & Greg were picking me up at Seaton Park train station in the car. Mum gave Greg a stern lecture about not making fun of me or criticising my permed hair in any way.

When I got into the car, Greg was silent but Mum turned around, saw my afro hair and shouted out ‘’JESUS CHRIST! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO YOURSELF”

We have been laughing about that day for years now. There was always a lot of laughs growing up with Mum. She had a wicked sense of humour which she definitely passed down to me.

Mum loved nothing better than to wind me up by deliberately saying things and opinions to provoke me – all done with an innocent, straight face. When I took the bait and started arguing back, she’d just start laughing and grin at me – as I realised I’d been had once again by Dot Read.

Our family was – and is – loud. In our house everyone had something to say and everyone had a funny line or a joke to tell.

There was no quiet, dignified sitting at the dinner table – you had to be louder and funnier to get heard above the racket. And I think that’s the way Mum preferred it – because we were all talking and shouting and joking together – as a family.

I don’t really have any regrets to ponder on today because I got to have a lot of fantastic years with Mum. And we did always talk and argue and laugh together.. And we always said “I love you’’ to each other and we always hugged and kissed and showed affection.

I’m sad today but I’m also happy because so many of the memories I have of Mum are funny and warm.

She was a terrific mother, I was a crap son but somehow we made it all work.