My best friend died a few days ago, and it was only then that I realised how lucky I was to have had his friendship.
We both grew up during World War II in London. Playing on the bomb sites, climbing stairs with treads missing, balancing across floors which had gaps in so you could see right through to the basement.
To us it was exciting and dangerous, you would battle with kids from other schools and throw bricks at each other or play soldiers.
As teenagers we both went to work for a national newspaper. Soon it was time for National Service . He couldn’t kill anyone and joined the Medical Corps as a male nurse. He was sent to Korea to sail home on a ship filled with wounded soldiers. The sights and sounds were hardening. His final six months in the army, was nursing in a medical centre for service personnel who had suffered breakdowns.
He returned to work drained, in need of a complete rest and a change to his way of life.
I helped him, by introducing him to drinking. We regularly visited almost every pub in London. He had a heart as big as a lion, he helped everyone he met, I never knew him to refuse me or anyone else, a kind word, or give the best advice he knew.
Emigration to Australia with our families and a new way of life.
Two weeks before he died we sat down and had our own discussion on life, death and memories. A few drinks and it became a debate.
The best playwrite was agreed as Shakespeare. The best film was Robin Hood, with Errol Flynn, the best fiction writer was Tom Sharpe.
Eventually we talked about Australia. Who was the best Australian ever born? We both agreed on ‘Weary’ Dunlop. A great man an angel sent to help us all.
I asked him he who he thought was the best politician…he said one had never been born.
But we finally agreed the two prime ministers who declared war on Germany, must have been the bravest politicians. It took guts to send a big country with a small population out to fight to the death. It proved the diggers were no push overs and could defeat armies twice their size.
I added who ever gave the OK to sunday drinking and horse racing was also a good ‘un .
It was impossible to pick the best sportsman or woman. He said cricket was where Australia ruled the world…but there were so many athletes and swimmers and footballers that I had to claim for such a small population all our sports people deserved the honour. I tried to hold out for Rod Laver as the best tennis player in the world, and Dawn the best swimmer but by then we had absorbed so much alcohol, a rest period was called.
That last meeting only brought home to me, what a lucky man I was to have such a true, honest and loyal friend. He’s gone now, and I can’t tell his family just how wonderful a human being he was…his children and his grandchildren remember pops and gramps a friendly warm loving man.
I remember the boy, the lad, the man the quick mind the great heart.
I will never forget my friend. To all my loyal readers take heed, seek out your friends, discuss your life, drink a toast and find out who you think was the best Australian.