Finding my way in a new world

Dear Chris

It has come as a very pleasant surprise as I have been writing these letters, to understand how grateful I am for the friendship we shared from mid-1971 to when I left Canberra in early 1973.

You were the wild, big brother I never had.

My memories of the times we spent together still bring a smile to my face.

You were the rebellious Army Brat, who perhaps understood better than anyone; the futility of the war in Vietnam. You knew the Army itself was never in favor of this crazy adventure, but they held their counsel as good servants are meant to do.

Your father; a senior Officer nearing the end of a long and illustrious career, looked on in feigned outrage, as you immersed yourself in the Anti War movement.

You befriended a naïve country boy and introduced me to your wide coterie of friends.

You taught me to drink, you introduced me to a range of foods I had never been exposed to, you taught me how to laugh at the ridiculous posturing of the Governing classes, you taught me to think independently, you taught me (half successfully) how not to fear the future and you also taught me, sometimes by your own example; the perils of the Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll period.

I will never forget the time after Canberra day in early 1972, when we had to lock you in the garage at Yarralumla to stop you damaging yourself and everything in your wake; as you rampaged through the house, after a particularly bad excursion into LSD.

You were an enigma, but you were an enigma I was bloody proud to know.

You introduced me to music like I had never heard before, I still cannot hear Joan Baez or Dylan without thinking back to the times we spent at Bep’s house listening to everything that was new and daring at the time.

Country Joe McDonald, Leon Russell, Billy Preston, Ravi Shankar and old songs from Woody Guthrie ,these were just part of the rich tapestry of protest music you forced me to listen to and appreciate; part of my education; you would say .

You were a fierce brawler, but a sensitive and caring soul; every bad thing you did, was countered by an act of pure generosity and good will.

Kris Kristofferson, asked; “whether the coming down was worth the going up?” in relation to yours and my friendship, the answer is a resounding Yes.

I wish I could have been more honest with you about the doubts and fears regarding my sexuality but this was a bridge too far for me.

Perhaps, it is just as well, I now know; you would have been totally supportive and encouraged me to follow my conscience.

I have no doubt, Sascha would have wished many times over the years that I had indeed sought your counsel; but from my point of view, I cannot imagine life without Sas and the three wonderful human beings that relationship was to produce.

The long lunches at Jazz and Jug in the courtyard of the old Canberra Hotel and the trips to the small pubs around Canberra on a Saturday to listen a range of edgy bands are indelibly etched in my mind.

The protests we attended and of which you were often the organizer; were times of unbridled freedom for this product of conservative, rural Australia.

If you were my Svengali, I was definitely your Trilby; but there was not an ounce of maliciousness in our friendship.

I was saddened, but hardly surprised when you were drummed out of the Public Service. This was way overdue, but only happened after the Human Resources people finally twigged to the meaning of Xoopsia.

This illness, regularly  appeared on your Doctor’s Certificates for those days, when going to work, for you; was not an option..

We slowly lost touch, particularly; after I moved away from Canberra in 1973, but there is much in the man I am today; that owes a huge debt to one of the first people I could truly call a friend.

Wherever you are now, I hope you are well and still rattling the cages.

Thank You

Bruce

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