HappyTimes

MY HOME

My home felt like a home to me. My mum and dad were there. And frequent visits from Uncle Arthur, Auntie Gladys, Uncle jack, Auntie Dagmar, Uncle Alf, Auntie Daf, Uncle Bill, Auntie Mary, Uncle Barney, Auntie Terri, and Uncle Charlie (who wasn’t really an uncle but was an honourary member of our family), who all added colour and laughter to our home at 51 Fawkner Street, St. Kilda.

From my child’s point of view our house was like Graceland and I was very proud of it. Today, I stand outside that same house and see a place so small and modest it resembles a doll’s house for grown-ups. Amazing that so small a space can house so many memories. To those who wander passed it would probably at best be considered “quaint.” To me it is a museum of my youth and I can still hear the distant echoes of laughter from my family, now all long gone.

My personality was formed in that house by those people. Life was simple and there was no need to be afraid of anything because my mum and dad held all the answers to Life.

It was a nicer world. People trusted each other. When we were having a poor week, Mr. and Mrs. Kilpatrick who owned the corner store would put the cost of groceries down on a piece of paper behind the counter and we’d pay them when we could. In those days to be able to wander up the street and buy an ice cream on the good of your name gave a small kid a lot of pride in who we were.

I learned the meaning of generosity and trust and the value of reputation in those bygone days. Your word was your word and your reward was the warm glow of pride when you were able to settle your meager debts.

From my mother I learned the meaning of kindness and never turning anyone in need away. I would sometimes wake in the morning and toddle down the corridor to find a stranger sleeping on our couch in the living room. When I’d ask my mum who this person was, she’d reply, “Oh that’s Tom, he’s from Hobart and didn’t have anywhere to stay so he’ll be here for a few days until he finds some place of his own.” People did what they could for each other.

From my father I learned that we all battle our own internal demons and that alcohol can sometimes make you say things you don’t mean. Hurt people hurt people. Sometimes in that house a kid got to hear and see things that ruined the dream world of Disneyland and Father Knows Best forever. But I learned forgiveness – knowing that at the heart of it my father didn’t mean what he said. He was not lashing out at us, but at the world. He’d had a much harder childhood than I could imagine and who knows what innermost regrets and sorrows his poor heart held and had to deal with every day. All I know is that he was the nicest man in the world up to 10 drinks. And that’s the man I choose to remember.

From my elder sisters I learned that envy can drive people to be cruel and mean-hearted and after many attempts over the years to forgive their actions towards me I had to cut them out of my life for good.

We were the last house in our street to get a television set and in the end we only got one by an Act of God. One day a delivery man from Steele’s dropped one off to us by mistake. Steele’s department store only realized their mistake two years later and dispatched another delivery man to pick it up. But by then we were seriously addicted to the weekly TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Richard Greene, and there was no way my dad was giving it back. When the delivery man sensed that my dad was willing to fight to the death to protect his family’s entertainment, the man from Steele’s swiftly departed and our ownership of the small mahogany television set was never contested again. My dad was a hero that day.

Before God granted us a television set, a boy had to invent his own entertainment. So each day after school, I’d rush home, change out of my school clothes, get dressed, grab a football and stroll out onto Fawkner Street and start bouncing it up and down on the pavement. It didn’t take long before boys from other houses would hear the familiar sound and start piling out onto the street for a kick to kick football match until night fell and we were all called home for dinner.

I used to try and take skyscraper marks, sometimes climbing up onto the backs of my opponents, like my football idol Big Bill Stephenson of St.Kilda. My mum and dad had taken me to every St.Kilda match from the time I was a baby in their arms, and as a young boy I had marveled at Big Bill’s genius at full forward. Then, one day when the Saints played Essendon, Big Bill had climbed into the stratosphere for a mark and came down landing badly and ruptured his knee. When he collapsed to the ground, he uttered the words, “I’m buggered” to which his opponent Don McKenzie replied, “Thank Christ for that!” So far that year Bill Stephenson had kicked 20 goals in just three and a half games and at that rate would’ve scored 102 goals for the year at a time when the leading full forwards averaged 54. He never played again. To me, it was a tragedy on the scale of the JFK assassination.

It’s funny the things that mean so much to us along the way and shape us as human beings. I still sometimes get teary eyed when I recall the long forgotten football hero Big Bill Stephenson. He passed away in 2010 with hardly a mention in the newspapers. But it meant something deep and profound to me. From Big Bill Stephenson I learned that no matter how high you soar, there is a still a price to be paid.

When I was born my mother wanted to name me Peter. My sisters wanted to name me Michael. And my Irish grandmother demanded I be called Frank. Guess who won out. A short time later we got a dog and he became Peter. Oh my, how I loved that dog. My first best friend. My confidante who never snitched on me if I did something wrong; who continued to smile at me even when I disappointed him and proved I was only human. From Peter, my rock, I learned loyalty.

One day I came home from school to be told the tragic news that Peter had run away from home. What? My best friend had run out on me? Had abandoned me for greener pastures? How could this be? It didn’t make sense. I grieved for many years over this and never got another dog. Perhaps deep down I still grieve in my schoolboy heart. Not that long before my mum passed away she told me the true story. Peter had not run away. The neighbor across the road had thrown chicken bones over our fence thinking the dog would like them. But Peter got one caught in his throat and choked to death. My mum invented the story that the rest of the family stuck by thinking it would be less traumatic for me if I thought he’d run away. I wonder if they still felt that when every evening after school I’d stand at the front gate looking up and down each end of the street for my best friend to come home. To me. It has probably instilled in me abandonment issues I carry to this day. If you love something too much, God takes it away.

Anyway, that was my first home. Sometimes I stand outside it today and fantasize that one day I’ll knock on the door and offer the people who live there a huge sum of money to give it back to me. I need somewhere to house these memories and am weary of carrying them for so long from one place to another.

And when I have it back, there’ll always be the kettle on for a visitor, a spare couch for someone in need, and if you have a dog with you, a big hug as I close my eyes and imagine Peter has come home.

 

(c) Frank Howson 2017

 

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RAY’S LAST STAND

Ray Macky sat at a table for one. He was used to it by now. It wasn’t like the old days. In those days it had been tables for two, or four or twenty-four. He’d been wildly popular in his younger days. In those times he thought it’d been due to his personal charm but now looking back from the cruel vantage point of having lived too long he saw it for what it was – he’d had success and that’d brought truck loads of money in its wake. He must’ve wined and dined every opportunist in town and even married some of them. He’d enjoyed the crème de la crème of the beautiful and sexy who were, at their hearts, the very worst of humanity. Had he learned anything from all this? No. Zip. He still melted inside when a pretty one smiled at him. These days they smiled at him out of pity – he seemed like a kindly old harmless fool instead of a wealthy one. It seems the last faculty to die is one’s stupidity. Each marriage had grown shorter and the settlements larger until there was nothing left. Ray, in his few honest discussions with himself, lamented the small deaths that led up to the big one. The death of his trust; the death of his respect; the death of his generousity; the death of his health; the death of his longing; the death of his libido; the death of his caring.

Sometimes on a summer’s night at an outside table for one, surrounded by young couples in love, he held on momentarily to the conceit that on one such night a beautiful, kind, understanding woman would notice him and walk into what was left of his life and everything leading up to this would suddenly make sense. But he was also smart enough by now to know that this was only the dream of an old man who needed something to clasp onto to bring sleep each night.

Ray liked to walk home from his favourite restaurants on such nights although friends had warned him it was no longer safe to do so at his age. It was a different time and now young boys roamed the streets filled with enough anger to pleasure themselves by bringing down the vulnerable. As if life hadn’t hurt them all enough.

On these late night walks home Ray would try and remember the sound of his parents’ voices and it’d comfort him. Step by step back into the past until he was a young lad again. Back to a time when he was loved…no…treasured, and the future was so filled with options and adventure that he couldn’t wait to be older. Where did it all go, he wondered. Was he so busy running to and from things that he forgot to savour the pleasure of each moment? Or did he enjoy them so much that time accelerated? Whichever scenario, the result was the same – he was now weary. Not just in body, but in spirit. And sad. Sad that he had had so much love to give and dissipated it on all the wrong people. The worst of them had damaged him for the best of them. In recent years he’d had the opportunity to have relationships with certain women but had always declined the offers or let them die on the vine from his lack of interest or follow through. All he knew was it felt good to finally have all the power. He could now no longer be seduced by a pretty face, a sexy body or a woman with a wicked mind. It gave him some satisfaction to see their surprised expressions when their games and charms no longer worked on him. Alas, they were too late. He had no more chips to bet.

His nightly walks also made him think of those that had gotten away. The ones he should’ve stayed with and the ones who broke his heart by leaving each time the money ran out. He’d had such rotten luck in love, although he wasn’t quite sure that some of the horrific scenes he’d endured should be classified under that sacred four letter word.

He wished he could go back in time and give his last wife the things that she’d needed that now seemed so clear but back then were unfathomable. What an idiot he was not to see. And now he was being punished for it. A life sentence. A dead man walking.

He wondered where his son was and what lies he must’ve been told to have distanced himself so much from a father that loved him more than life itself. But such things were too painful to think about if one was to keep going forward. He preferred to think of him as the young man who had worshipped his father. A dad who could do no wrong.

On his last nightly walk home, Ray Macky heard his son’s voice yell out to him from behind and he turned, smiling, his eyes suddenly filled with hope of a new beginning, or a miraculous renewal of what had once been the most loving of relationships. For a few moments Ray was taken aback at how much his son had changed. His face had grown hard and cruel in ways that he couldn’t quite grasp. And he was older than his years. Had he caused this damage to the one he had so loved?

Then he heard the suddenly unfamiliar voice demand money, “Give me your money, old man, or you’ll get this!”

Ray looked down to see a knife in the boy’s hand. Surely his son wouldn’t pull a knife on his own father? If he wanted money all his son had to do was ask and Ray would’ve given him anything. Ah, but then again, Ray no longer had anything. He was back in the here and now, and the cold realisation that he was of no longer any use to anyone.

“I only have twenty dollars in cash I’m afraid. But it’s yours, Tommy, take it, my boy. I can get you some more on Friday when my pension is in my account..”

“Tommy?…Who the fuck is Tommy you stupid old bastard?!”

“Tommy, don’t you recognise me? I’m your dad. I’ve never stopped loving you…”

Ray didn’t get to finish his sentence before the boy grabbed his wallet, thrust the knife into his stomach and ran from the stranger.

Ray fell to the footpath as a warm pool of blood formed around him. Lying there he wondered what he had done to make his son hate him so. Didn’t he know that life just got in the way sometimes and people had no control over where it led them?

Ray attempted a laugh that a monetary figure had finally been placed on his life and closed his eyes in peace that all debts were now paid.

Ray’s last thought was that he hoped the twenty dollars would be of some help to the boy.

 

(c) Frank Howson 2016

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ALL I KNOW IS THIS.

All I know is this. Politicians, mostly, stand for one thing, and one thing only – being elected.  Those who genuinely dare to make a difference and can’t be bought – are in danger of their lives. And will either be killed by a bullet or a smear campaign.

 

All I know is this. Jesus, whether he was the Messiah, the Son of God, a gifted rabbi, or just another madman in the wilderness, preached a message of love and forgiveness – regardless of the translations, the interpretations or the Chinese whispers – his message, and the price he paid for it, are worthy of my respect, and love.

 

All I know is this. Shakespeare has the perfect quote to describe any condition of human nature. So does Bob Dylan.

 

All I know is this. They no longer make films for mature audiences.

 

All I know is this. It is alright to love something – but you are damned if you love that thing too much.

 

All I know is this. Today we have at our fingertips on the internet more easily accessed information than any previous generation that inhabited this planet. And yet the ignorance level has never been higher.  Who the hell is Paul McCartney?  Go fuck yourself.

 

All I know is this. Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t shoot J.F.K and the men who did got away with it.

 

All I know is this. None of us have any real idea what’s happening in the world at the moment. We have been purposely misinformed for many years now because the only way to keep the public in line is to have them in a constant state of confusion and chaos. Oh, and hopefully, on drugs.

 

All I know is this. The War on Terrorism is as calculatingly and cynically futile and convenient as the War on Drugs.

 

All I know is this. Two of Hollywood’s greatest geniuses, or genii, Charles Chaplin and Orson Welles, were both run out of town. Does that tell you something?

 

All I know is this. Children’s theatre and pantomimes were the first introduction of many kids like me to the magical world of theatre. And once hooked on it we continued to go back in search of other magical nights. It built a whole future audience for stage shows. Sadly, what we knew as children’s theatre is now as dead as the Wicked Witch. Ding dong.

 

All I know is this. We owe more than we know to The Beatles. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

All I know is this. The more you see of Life, the less you think you know.

 

All I know is this. Humility is the open road to God.

 

All I know is this. More lives had been lost or damaged through manmade religions than all the wars since the beginning of time. God is great. But his organized fan clubs are run by the ignorant and the flawed.

 

All I know is this. You can’t judge somebody by the colour of their skin, their gender, the size of their wallet, or their religion.  We can only truly be judged on the fabric of our spirit.

 

All I know is this. You can’t make somebody love you.

 

All I know is this. Success comes to those who persist. If you lean against a closed door long enough eventually it flies open.

 

All I know is this.  Some of the old clichés have become clichés because they hold the truth. Everything in moderation. If you eat, drink, do, or take too much of anything it will harm you.

 

All I know is this. Anthony Newley was a genius that the world has largely forgotten now.

 

All I know is this. Everything you learn you learn in the first five years of your life. Then it may take a lifetime to overcome that.

 

All I know is this. Any battle is hard won.

 

All I know is this. Much more is achieved by a smile than a threat.

 

All I know is this. Every mistake we make is an opportunity to learn something. Those of us who don’t learn are destined to repeat it over and over again. Some, sadly, are stuck in Groundhog Day all their lives.

 

All I know is this. You never lose a friend. They live on in your heart forever.

 

All I know is this. We’re not here for long, so be kind to each other.

 

 

 

(c) Frank Howson 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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REMEMBER

Remember the days before ipods and iphones when we actually took the time to talk to each other? Really talk.

Remember when you could go out to lunch as an escape from the pressures of work and for an hour could unwind and enjoy a meal without being interrupted by a phone call about something that could obviously wait an hour?

Remember when love was something magical and special and people didn’t take each other for granted? Or for a ride. We all rejoiced when there was suddenly free love. Trouble is, like most things, people don’t value things that come too easily.

Remember when music was on vinyl and an album was big and had a beautiful cover that actually looked like a work of art and we carried those albums around with us to friends’ houses as a badge of pride? They had cover notes. They listed what musicians played on what track. What studio each track was recorded at? Who engineered? What time of day or night had it been recorded. Who had written each song? Who arranged it? Who mixed it? The lyrics. It was important to us to know all these things and to respect those who had participated on our beloved recording. It was difficult to skip tracks so it made you listen to every song and appreciate an album as a whole. Now, music has gotten smaller in so many ways. People download things in inferior sound quality and don’t give a damn about who played on it and who else contributed. Now it’s all about beats.

Remember when people used to know their neighbours? And actually care about them?

Remember when a dog was a child’s best friend and there were so many hills to climb and games to play in the open air? It taught us to use our imaginations. Without a computer screen, we could imagine we were Zorro, Davy Crockett, Robin Hood or Geronimo and play in parks for hours having the time of our life. And were safe.

Remember when the smallest gesture was appreciated and treasured?

Remember when we believed that our vote counted for something? This was in the days before the Whitlam sacking (a Prime Minister elected by the public and dismissed by one man), and Kevin Rudd (another man elected by the public but dismissed by his own party).

Remember when our innocence was lost from three bullets fired in Dallas? A reminder that the world was not a safe place for those who dreamed big dreams.

Remember when your parents took the time to read you bedtime stories?

Remember when an ice cream and a trip to the movies made you feel like the richest kid in town?

Remember when Christmas was spent with all those long gone family members and we laughed as if there would be no tomorrow?

Remember when the days seemed so long that you could easily fit into each one everything you had to do?

Remember the first time you heard the Beatles and they sounded like nothing you’d ever heard before? It’s hard for younger people to appreciate their full impact on the way things were. Music, hair, clothing, and attitudes changed overnight. Or so it seemed.

Remember when you were small and played with children with different coloured skin and didn’t even notice?

Remember the excitement of each birthday party shared with your friends?

Remember the smell of your mum’s cooking? It seemed like she was some kind of magician. She always knew what you wanted.

Remember when each day was your friend and another chance for an adventure? Where did we lose that enthusiasm for life? I lost it for a whole decade but have worked hard to regain it. Be thankful for each day no matter what you are going through. Each day is a gift. If you treat it as such it will be.

Remember when radio stations played any and every style of music as long as they thought it was a hit? It was such a weird and exciting mix of Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Louis Armstrong, The Rolling Stones, Elvis, Anthony Newley, The Shadows, Bob Dylan, The Seekers, Bobby Darin, Paul Mauriat, The Kinks, Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey,  Janis Joplin, etc., etc., etc.

Remember when people read books and writers became celebrities?

Remember when Bing Crosby was the voice of Christmas?

Remember romance?

Remember Muhammad Ali in his prime when he glided like a proud eagle in flight?

Remember reading the Old Testament and being scared because God seemed so pissed off all the time? In the New Testament He had, like us all, mellowed by time.

Remember crying over the loss of your first love?

Remember when people took the time to write and post Christmas cards?

Remember Noddy in Toyland?

Remember when the circus came to town?

Remember watching man set foot on the moon and knowing nothing would be the same again? It was scary and exciting all at the same time. In the words of Bob Dylan, “Man has invented his doom, first step was touching the moon…”

Remember when it wasn’t painful to remember?

 

(c) Frank Howson 2014

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TO DIE OR NOT TO DIE

Self-destruction. An interesting topic and one that holds a compellingly morbid fascination for most of us. Some of us, especially those who are artists, have dueled with it for years, even choosing the weapons ourselves – cigarettes, alcohol, and the harder stuff. Are we drawn to these things in order to block out the world or just dull our senses to how hard the road is before us? All the responsibilities that living brings with a new cart load pulling up everyday.

I know a man who is brilliant. Genius even. In a world where the word genius is overused he is the bona fide true meaning. In the same way that the word star got so overused we had to invent the word superstar, this man is a super-genius then, and I love him, warts and all, as a brother. Today he is battling his demons and it’s a 50/50 bet on the success of this outcome. But with genius comes the heavy load of having to continually live up to that word in the eyes of others, and to oneself. Oh, what a relief it must seem to just close your eyes and make it all go away. The pressure of outdoing your last triumph or the humiliation of your last misstep hounds you and bites at your heels every step of the way. You are your toughest critic and will beat yourself up more harshly than the best Kenneth Turan could’ve dished out at his peak. Sometimes, like critics, we are wrong too. Sometimes an orange is just an orange. Or in some cases, a lemon. Do we over complicate our lives by looking too deeply? In the words of Bob Dylan, “Sometimes it’s not enough to know the meaning of things. Sometimes we have to know what things don’t mean as well.”

One day, although my mind has blurred the number of years if not the pain, I was sitting on the stairs of a grand house I once owned in the depths of despair having decided to burn the fort and lose everything, my career included, in order to be rid of a business associate neither I or anyone else could trust anymore. My son, Oliver, who must’ve been only 4 years of age, saw me and with quite some effort for his little legs climbed the steps up to where I was sitting, sat beside me, put his arm on my shoulder and said, “Don’t worry Daddy, it’ll be alright when you grow up to be a child”. Looking back, I think it’s the greatest piece of advice I have ever been told or even read in a book. Therein lies the secret to happiness. Learn to look at life as a child. To appreciate every moment. To take the time to be beguiled by the beauty of simplicity. To look up in wonderment at the falling of a star. Take the time to be silly, it helps you not take yourself too seriously. And to finally realize that if you have a warm bed, and a hot shower, everything else you get is gravy. And be thankful for it.

It is a shocking statistic how many genius artists have died before they lived to 36. Coincidence? Or were they killed by the fear and pressure of having to live up to themselves? When Elvis Presley died his ex-wife showed insensitivity by stating the obvious, “He died at the right time. If he’d lived any longer he would’ve disappointed us all”. Elvis? Now there’s an example for you. They say he “officially” died of a heart attack. Cybil Shephard, one of his last girlfriends, has stated that his death is one of the biggest medical cover-ups in history. She said when he died he had enough drugs in his system to still the heart of an elephant, and that, in her opinion, it was the end of a very long suicide. Yes, it’s true he never got over losing Priscilla, that’s well known, and one can chart his rapid decline from the moment she left him. But was it not more than that? Ironically, the most desired man in the world died of loneliness, surrounded by yes men, a leach of a manager, and women he didn’t really love. You see, he’d been too long on Lonely Street. The reality is Elvis died from a lethal overdose of boredom, loneliness, Las Vegas and fear. The fear that it was all past him.

Felton Jarvis, the producer of Elvis’ last album “Moody Blue” has said that it was impossible to get Elvis to record the last 4 songs for that album. In desperation, Jarvis flew to where Elvis was on tour and tracked him down at his hotel, pleading with him to just give a few days of his time to complete the album….even just a day! To which Elvis just looked at him and said, “I’m tired of being Elvis Presley.” He was dead just weeks later and Jarvis filled out the posthumous album with 4 live tracks.

And now the great Robin Williams is gone.

But the machine doesn’t want to broadcast to everyday folk that people that successful found success that hollow. It messes up the dream that keeps the wheels turning. That dream we all keep chasing and sacrificing to achieve. You mean – I can become king of the world and end up wanting to die? How does that happen? Is the dream just a lie?

I don’t know. I’m just a man wandering around in circles in the wilderness like everyone else. But I will share something I have learnt by looking at life from both sides now. Those who think they will be happy once they have money…or once they have a big car…or once they have a trophy partner…or once they have a huge mansion…are in for a jolt. The secret, from one who’s learned, is this; you have to be happy before you get those things. Put yourself in order first. And yes, if you are happy within yourself then of course money is the cherry on the cake and will allow you to have some nice times and comfortable living arrangements. Happiness is the foundation on which you build your life. Your inside breeds your outside. Not the other way around. Oh, and when you’ve got money, help out some true friends. Don’t forget that. There is no greater joy than to know you have affected someone’s life in a positive way.

In the meantime, send out some positive thoughts to those who are struggling tonight.

(c) Frank Howson 2014

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NOTE TO A SON

1. Make sure you brush your hair.

2. Smile at old people, it may be the only smile they get all day.

3. Learn everything you can, then forget it and follow your instincts.

4. Play Bob Dylan really loud.

5. Respect the past, but don’t live there.

6. Never take no for an answer, even the experts can be wrong.

7. Be kind to children, the one thing everybody deserves is a nice childhood.

8. Watch movies that make you feel something.

9. Believe it or not, your parents were once your age and went through all the same stuff. Sometimes you just need to remind them of that.

10. Make sure you acknowledge the homeless people on the street. There but for the grace of God go us all. And you may be the only person who looks into their eyes all day.

11. The world is a scary place. The world is a friendly place. It awaits your choice.

12. A lot can be achieved with a smile. It’s more powerful than a gun as long as it’s sincere.

13. At least once a day stop and give thanks for what you have.

14. If you succumb to self-pity, count your friends and you’ll realise how fortunate you are.

15. Be bold and mighty forces join you. Nobody ever achieved anything without risk.

16. Make time to occasionally watch the dawn of a new day. It’s in that silence that we can hear God’s breath.

17. Today is the tomorrow you were worried about yesterday.

18. Hug those you love. It would be a shame if they never realised how much you appreciated them.

19. Make sure you fall in love with a person and not a concept.

20. Don’t try and change those you love. Love them for who they are. And ask the same in return.

21. It’s true that you have to pass through hell to fully appreciate heaven.

22. Treat every day as a gift. That’s why they call it the present.

23. Remember your wise words to your dad once when he was passing though hell, “Don’t worry dad, it’ll be alright when you grow up to be a child”. I’ve never forgotten that advice. Don’t you ever forget it either.

24. How good a friend you are defines who you are.

25. It’s only money. Don’t worship false Gods.

26. Love your mother.

27. Try to get a good night’s sleep when you can. You’ll need it.

28. Whatever happens happens for a reason. Try and learn a lesson from it so you don’t have to go through it again.

29. Treat everyone as family until they prove different.

30. Don’t trust anything that comes too easy.

31. Create, don’t destroy.

32. Don’t be cruel.

33. Don’t be mean-spirited.

34. Don’t be envious.

35. Love this moment. It will not come again.

36. Don’t be afraid to occasionally be silly. It’s good for you.

37. Learn to laugh at yourself. It saves others doing it.

38. Be humble but never forget who you are. Everyone deserves to be respected. Remind the less courteous if they forget that.

39. Don’t allow people filled with darkness into your life. Some will delight in bringing you down.

40. Always tell the truth. A lie is a timebomb that will eventually explode in your face.

41. Be respectful to women. They have it tough enough.

42. At the heart of everything is the truth. And people will always respond to it.

43. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Or directions.

44. Don’t become a slave to anything.

45. Don’t surrender your pride, you may never get it back.

46. Stand up for what is right. Even if it’s an unpopular thing to do.

47. Don’t let someone else’s trip become yours.

48. Appreciate every act of kindness done for you. And try and pay it forward.

49. Walk in the park occasionally and observe everything.

50. Angels sometimes bring us messages – make sure you don’t dismiss them.

51. Love sees no colour. Love knows no age. You fall in love with someone for who they are, not the colour of their skin or the number of their years.

52. Never make a promise you can’t keep. Your word is your bond and a handshake should be the tightest contract in the world.

53. A lot of people will be your friend as long as you’re doing what they want. If, the moment it becomes about you, you lose them – they were never your friends to begin with.

54. Never ever forget, for one second, how much you’re loved. You were made from love, you are love, now share that love.

(c) Frank Howson 2014

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MY LIFE

No screenwriter could’ve summoned up my story from his guts, or resisted the temptation to rewrite it until it fell into the Syd Field formula of how to knock out a saleable script. But truth is stranger than fiction. It’s certainly more convoluted. And doesn’t always play out well.

One thing for certain about my life, it’s rarely been boring. If I’d had the ear of our Maker I would’ve lobbied for less trauma, a ceiling clause on the highs – and definitely a safety net for the lows. Halcyon days would’ve been my order. It certainly is now. But then what would I have had to write about?

They say “No tears for the writer, no tears for the reader”. So there it is. God made me a sponge. A filter. A processor…

Other people he just makes rich.

Still, I’d better not complain. Next life, knowing my discontent with being a sponge, he may very well make me a slug. Then again, a slug’s life may be bliss. He doesn’t have to deal with lawyers, tax shelter advisers, financiers, mortgage lenders, real estate agents, bank managers, debenture holders, business partners, used car salesmen and fakes.

Maybe a slug’s life is Heaven. It’s been right there at our feet all along. And you tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

Perhaps Tom Waits was right. There is no Devil, there’s just God when he’s drunk.

To those whose lives have crossed mine, I thank you, friend and foe alike; I’ve learned something from you all. As for those of you I haven’t met yet, when we do, if I appear to be cynical, distrusting, suspicious, arrogant, bitter or just plain aloof, please think of the forces that shaped me. Don’t get the wrong impression. I can assure you that deep down inside there is still that young, excited, eager-to-please boy who just wants to make a movie. And to trust again.

Although I wasn’t the financial brains behind Boulevard Films, I have paid dearly for those who were.

One day in the midst of the battle with my business partner, I was sitting on the stair at our house when my son asked me what was wrong. I was deeply depressed and my voice was a croak. I told him, “Nothing”.

He smiled, patted me on the head and said, “Don’t worry, Daddy – it’ll be alright when you grow-up to be a child”.

My son is very wise old soul. I’ve learnt a lot from him. He’s taught me to look at the world like a child again; to appreciate the beauty in simplicity; the wonder of a smile; the power in wishing on a star. All the fundamental things I’d forgotten along the way. There is so much to learn and so little time.

Every time I go through a rough patch now I remember the phrase, “This too shall pass”. The bad times and the good times shall pass. During those days we’ll be praised as well as ridiculed. It’s in the fine print – and if you can’t accept both gracefully you’ll end up with the broken-hearted and terminally bitter. And finally, we too shall pass. All we can ask is that, come our time, we’ll leave with the knowledge that we’ve done more than just take up space on this planet. Hopefully, we leave behind some good. I know I have. I will leave behind my gift to the world; my greatest co-production – Oliver. Someone infinitely better than me – his existence more than makes up for my failings. I leave with the satisfaction that I achieved something truly grand.

Anyone who tells you they have all the answers is either a fool or a liar. The truth is, there are no answers. God put us here to make our way through the darkness as best we could. And so we stumble and collide and, in the end, if we make any ground at all, we are rewarded with some light – some warmth – and some love.

They say we choose our time of death . Well, if that’s the case I’m willing to put mine on hold while I stumble around a bit more. The more you see, the less you know. But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe wisdom comes in simplicity and its custodians are children and old people. If I live long enough I may just get there.

I have a recurring dream. I wake up in a familiar place and my son is standing there smiling. He tells me I’m a sleepy head and that there’s so much we have to do. Then he takes my hand and leads me out into the sun. When my eyes adjust, I see we’re in a beautiful garden. A feeling of warmth and great love abound. There are no shadows anywhere. No monsters lurking in the bush. And it’s a perfect moment no one can take away from us. And, suddenly, it’s all been worth it.

(c) Frank Howson 2014