Friendship love and optimism

Darling Sas

It was now mid-1985, it had been almost 12 months since my declaration of honesty had rocked our marriage. I don’t know what was going on in the depths of your mind during that time. I do know, that for my part, I was happy we had formed some sort of an accommodation based on a deep friendship and our fledgling family.

I think there was recognition and a determination from both of us that we had something worth saving and we would not throw it away.

It is sort of funny that you and I have never discussed this time. Looking back now, it seems we had settled into some sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” stalemate.

Whatever the situation, I remember our last 12 months in Wagga as a time of happiness and contentment.

The kids were growing into strong, independent, little people, we had settled into the big old house and business was good.

The Saturday mornings at the office, when the boys were out and I was holding the fort, became a sort of a magnet for friends to drop in for a chat, often you would be there with the kids.

Who can ever forget the dreadfully sad but warm, tragi comedy of the morning when Di and Pete had returned to Wagga after the death of their new born baby.

We were sitting around in the reception area, chatting and trying hard to help them deal with the infinite sadness of their loss.

The lovable and irrepressible Kimmy dropped in. The last time these people had seen each other, Di had been heavily pregnant. Kimmy  knew nothing of the tragedy so it was entirely logical, the topic turned to the baby.

We were watching a train wreck unfold before our eyes but there was little we could do.

“Hi Di, the last time, I saw I saw you were this big” Kimmy put her hands out in front of her stomach for emphasis.

“What did you have?”

“We had a little boy” there was deep sadness in Di’s voice but Kimmy did not pick up on this and ploughed forward relentlessly.

“Wonderful, a little brother for Luke, how is everything?”

“He died six days after birth”

The words hung in the air, the look of shock and horror on Kimmy’s face was something I never want to see again.

She did not know what to do and turned towards the door, but not before uttering.

“Oh shit, well better luck next time”

With that she was gone. We were left in this void of horrid, hovering nothingness.

Fortunately, we all knew Kimmy and we knew that causing harm would have been so totally foreign to this wonderfully, vibrant personality.

There were no mobile phones then, but later in the day Kimmy called me, distraught at what she had said.

I calmed her down, told her that Pete and Di understood and told her that in some ways it had been an emotional icebreaker because none of us really knew how to deal with the situation.

It was this type of community, warmth and closeness I was asking you to leave as we discussed the move to Sydney. It meant leaving behind good friends and moving farther way from my family.

Your closeness to my Dad had healed many old wounds and there were many happy memories from our Sundays at the farm and Mum and Dad’s impromptu visits when they were in town.

We were still a family, albeit a family with a haunting demon but the boil of dishonesty had at least been lanced. Your support for our move was infinitely important to me.

As I write this now, I become more and more impressed with the bond that tied us and ever more grateful for your presence in my life.

You are a very special person.

Love

Bruce

Advertisements

A lunch that changed our lives

Dear Affy

It started with a simple request in, I think; March 1985.

You wandered into my office and asked whether you could buy me lunch.

After three years of success, partnership and friendship a more astute person may have discerned the dissatisfaction and restlessness stirring beneath this simple request.

With all that was happening in other aspects of my life, though, I was guilty of taking your friendship and our business for granted.

You did not know the turmoil boiling between Sas and myself. This was not a reflection on you or my faith in you, it was simply something that Sas and I were trying to work out between ourselves.

“Bruce I want to travel; I want you to buy me out” those words hit me hard, perhaps harder than you knew.

A multitude of thoughts flashed through my mind; finding the money to buy you out, the delicate state   of my marriage, the thought of running the business without you and the unresolved demons still haunting me.

Did I want to continue living in this city which, whilst it had been kind to me, would not have been nearly as welcoming if my sexuality became a topic of conversation?

Eight years after this conversation in 1993, the man who was to become the Federal Member for the local electorate, was to write an opinion piece for the local paper headed “Sordid Homosexuality becoming more entrenched”

It is safe to say my fears were not unfounded in 1985!

It didn’t take long for me to make up my mind.

“Affy let’s sell the business”

“Bruce, this is your dream, you could not really want to do that”

“I do, now let’s get back to work”

There was no plan, just an understanding and realization this chapter of our lives was ending.

Within days, the planets had aligned and we had a buyer!

I rang Michael in Sydney to tell him what was happening, his response was surprisingly succinct.

“What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know, but I think we will be leaving Wagga, we will probably head to Sydney or Melbourne and I will go back to selling houses, I am good at that”

“Why don’t you come and work with me for while”

I was surprised, Michael and I had been at loggerheads for months. He certainly knew I did not agree with him over the direction he was taking the group.

“Why, would you do that?”

Lyndon Johnson once said “it is better to have your enemies inside the tent pissing out, rather than outside pissing in”

“You are good at what you do, you understand this business and I think we can work together”

Sas and I spoke about it, within two months our lives had been uprooted.

Affy, much has happened between you and I, since that time. I am delighted the mutual friendship, love and respect we forged in those heady days has never waned.

Not for the last time will I say

Thank you, old mate,

Bruce

Finding My Voice

 

Hi Michael

You were appointed to head up the newly merged Ray White and ERA groups. You came into this role with a strong background of success in the RW group and very firm ideas as to what constituted a good agency business.

Your disdain for what ERA had achieved was palpable and your understanding of battling businesses, struggling for cash flow without the advantages of a strong market presence, was unsympathetic.

On top of this, your dislike and antipathy towards Bob was obvious. All of these factors combined to make your introduction to the group less smooth than it may have been.

What you failed to grasp was the depth of culture and mutual support adversity had built, a full frontal attack on everything we liked about the group, was bound to create animosities and arguments.

As chairman of the southern NSW group and as a co-owner of the leading country business I was asked to intervene.

I arranged a meeting with you for a Sunday morning in Sydney, I left Wagga after work on Saturday for the long drive to Sydney, we met and you were inflexible to the point of arrogance.

The five-hour drive back to Wagga on Sunday afternoon was eventful, if only for the fact, that in my rage, I managed to pick up three speeding tickets!

When Affy and I spoke on Monday, we seriously considered leaving the group. We didn’t do this, because our departure at that stage would have precipitated the demise of the network and we felt a sense of responsibility to stay and fight.

Over the next six months you and I were to have many fights, my dislike for you softened to a grudging respect and we worked together much better that I would have first anticipated.

Because of our isolation, the changes were easy to ignore if we did not like them, while the affiliation with the strength of the Ray White network in Queensland; added another weapon to our marketing armory.

It would be wrong to say you and I grew close over these months but we managed to walk our respective lines and our differences became more civil.

Affy and I continued to build our business and unbeknownst to almost everyone, Sas and I were working on saving our marriage.

The end of 1984 saw our business in good shape, we had three salespeople working with us and the future was looking brighter.

These were good times, we had good friends, there were unresolved issues in my marriage but at least there was honesty and, the partnership between Affy and I was healthy and strong.

I did learn from you Michael and I do thank you for many of those lessons, it was through you I gained the courage to find my voice.

Your commitment to brutal honesty rubbed off on me in ways you would not know.

There was one other thing I learnt Michael, I learnt that doggedness must be tempered with humanity.

Best Wishes

 

Bruce

Tomorrow Never Knows

Dear Brian

From memory it was early Spring 2004; we were called to a special meeting of the Southern NSW ERA agents group.

Bob had called me personally, given that I was chairman of this group, he specifically asked that both Affy and I make the trek across to Canberra for this meeting.

We were to meet you for the first time. At first; when I was introduced to you, the name Brian White did not register any specific interest and I was more interested in catching up with Bob again before the meeting.

Bob was the tall, charismatic American who had been sent to Australia to set up ERA.

Sas and I had become friends with him and Carol. Last November, we had celebrated Bob’s birthday at a dinner in Wagga, when he and Carol had driven through on the way to Melbourne, we had stayed at their apartment in Mosman over Easter, when they were away and, we had spent many hours with the two of them at various functions over the past 12 months.

Bob had given Affy and I, the belief in ourselves to build our business and had introduced us to many tools, helping us to plan and plot our business success.

Before the meeting started, your presence was just a curiosity, Bob and I swapped banter and he did a great job of not revealing who you were or why you were there.

It was not long before I realised the full import of this meeting; Brian White, Chairman of Ray White Real Estate in Queensland, was here to tell us he had bought the ERA franchise in Australia.

I don’t think you quite understood the power of a group when they are besieged. Most of us had joined ERA with the promise of being part of a rapidly growing network. We had been disappointed with the lack of growth but Bob’s personality and charm had melded us into a very loyal team. We were proud of our network and we had all become friends and business confidants.

At first glance, your presentation on the benefits of your ownership was underwhelming and to be honest most of us greeted this news with a great deal of scepticism.

We were all aware of the Ray White market presence in Queensland, but we were also aware of the previous, failed attempts to establish a network in NSW.

The meeting folded and we went to digest this news over a late lunch, there was despair at the coming loss of Bob and there was concern at your seeming lack of any pride at what he had achieved.

We did not get to meet the man you had told us was going to take charge of our network and this also caused some concern.

I was not to know how this meeting was going to change my future; Affy and I drove the three hours back to Wagga in tense discussion.

I was to grow a very deep respect for you over the next ten years but given the tone of this meeting, that respect would take time to develop.

Best Wishes

Bruce

The Rising

 

Dear Affy

Hi old mate, I did warn that, you would figure prominently in these letters; only fitting for someone who has been at my side for much of my life.

Our joint business had been slowly building respect and momentum for the last six months and life was definitely looking brighter, we were working well together and most importantly; you had become a de facto part of my family.

it was Autumn 1983 and you walked into my office, I had heard garbled parts of the phone conversation you had just hung up on.

“This company called Electronic Realty Associates was just on the phone, have you ever heard of them?”

“Nah, probably some fly by night company wanting to make a quick buck, what did they want?”

“They want to send us a buyer, from the South Coast; people who have been transferred here with work!”

Now; any self – respecting real estate agent, understands our business does not revolve around buyers, if you have the right property for sale, buyers will find you. Sellers are the Gold medal and Buyers are either Silver or Bronze. They are important, they should be treated with respect but their loyalty is quite rightly aligned with finding the perfect home for themselves, regardless of who they are buying it from.

At that time though, things were a bit different; buyers were still bloody hard to find and the chance to get first crack at a buyer coming from out of town meant money, even if we had to share the fees with another listing agent in town.

“Well fuck, it can’t do any harm no matter what it costs”

You duly called them back, accepting the offer and within a month, these buyers had been to town and you had sold them a property.

We decided to further explore this strange company called ERA and by Spring we had joined their fledgling network of agencies in Australia.

They were American, they were brash and they had this magical device which could transport photos across the phone lines.

We became the proud owners of the first fax machine, west of the Blue Mountains! We were the innovators in town. The photos coming through this fax machine were more black and blurred than we would have liked but we were loud and proud about our new “international affiliation”.

Just what the fact, that ERA had over 3,000 offices in the USA, meant in sunny, downtown Wagga Wagga NSW, Australia, I have no idea; but it gave us something to believe in bigger than ourselves. We used that magic to build a very good business.

We were the McDonalds of real estate in our small rural city, in fact; I think we beat McDonalds to town.

We were Donald Trump without the “pussy” slurs!

It did not take us long to realise that ERA in Australia had even less substance than “The Donald”, but it did not matter in our small city. We used this to become leading spokespeople within the group. Our image as leaders of the rag tag group of agencies assembled under the banner in Australia, became even more entrenched when you travelled to the international conference in Orlando, Florida and were named as one of the top ten salespeople within the entire international group!

We might have fudged this, just a little; by adding some of my sales to your tally but we were partners and that is what partners do!

These were heady times Affy; we enjoyed the respect of our peers in town and of those other members of the group within NSW. I think we were the second best office in the state, lagging behind one inner city Sydney office, whose prices and market were vastly higher and bigger than we could ever dream of.

I was happy, I had three beautiful kids and a wife who loved me, we were back to making money and I had a business partner I liked and was proud of.

Affy; I think both of us would give each other the credit for what had happened, but there is one thing for sure; we were doing it together!

I would go home at night to my best mate after spending the day, working with my other best mate. You can’t do much better than that.

Love Ya, old friend

Bruce

 

OMG the storm has arrived

Yo Kayla (This is your greeting; sorry, I have borrowed it)

You arrived on the morning of 9 November 1982 and boy did you arrive! A force of nature who almost immediately took control of proceedings. Your two older sisters were certainly no pushovers, but you forced your way into this family as only you can.

I need to clear up a bit of family folklore; I did not take Mum to the Hospital and abandon her there on the night you were born!

It was my duty night on Lifeline, and; as with everything else in your life, you decided you just had to be born at this time and on your terms!

I did go home after dropping Mum to the hospital, it was too late to arrange for anyone to take my shift and I was torn between duty and joy.

I watched the clock religiously, waiting for the little hand to click onto 12 when my shift was due to finish. For the last 15 minutes, I prayed there would not be anyone in need of solace, to prevent me from leaving on time and getting back to the hospital to be with Mum before she went into her final labour.

34 Years ago, there were no mobile phones to enable me to take Lifeline with me, even if this had been allowed.

There is also no truth in the rumor that we actually wanted a boy. I am on record as saying that after having two girls, I really did not want to have to relearn this parenting caper, which would have been the case, if we were to have had a boy.

It didn’t much matter as it turned out; we certainly had to relearn what it was like to have a baby in the house once again, and; what a baby we had to contend with!

My mother said on more than one occasion, you just did not like being a baby. You wanted the world before you could talk or walk!

What’s changed?

Baptized as an Anglican with Rob and Marg standing proudly as your god parents, meant we had completed the trifecta of the mix of religions Mum and I had inherited.

You were loved and nurtured as a precious addition to our family. For you, this was nothing less than you deserved, you soaked up the attention and demanded even more.

In the future, you and I would have tests of will that left both of us exhausted, but there was a bond between the two of us, which; despite bending and straining precipitously at times, would bounce back, each time stronger and more durable than before.

In one of the bravest (silliest) things we have ever done, we set off for Bright in the beautiful Ovens Valley for our normal Christmas camping holiday when you were just six weeks’ old.

Your first Christmas was spent in a bouncinette looking critically at other campers as they wandered past on their way to the river.

I remember one night when nothing would settle you, I walked you for what seemed like hours. There were times, I thought I had succeeded in getting you to sleep, but the moment I stopped to check, the screams would restart, to echo through the valley.

There was a fairground on the edge of the village, I headed for this, figuring that at least the noise of the fair, would drown out the tortured yells coming from the pram.

We had not been inside the fair for any more than a minute or two, when I dared to look inside the pram; you were sound asleep, defeated by something even louder than yourself.

I smile as I write this, it is early morning in Hong Kong and you will be preparing for a day at work, consumed by the hustle and bustle of that most vibrant of cities.

You will still be fighting to be heard above the hubbub, not so easily deflected by the noise around you.

We have traveled a long, long way Miss Kayla, but the love has never faltered and I say a silent prayer of thanks for the life and joy you have given us.

Go loud and strong into the future, my darling.

We are so proud of you.

Love You

Dad