For those following our journey, you may have noticed a continually growing chain of life changing and truly inspiring events that keep finding their way into our lives. Is this a post about another? Putting aside my passion for writing and educating our youth, those whom know me personally will also know that football runs through my veins. My beloved Bulldogs have played a huge role in developing the Timmy Bristow you know today. Passionate people, I find are passionate about having a passion. Sounds like I’m stating the obvious, right? But think about someone you know who doesn’t come across as passionate and they probably won’t be a person with any true interests outside their job or home life. Passion can be nurtured but sometimes you just have it in your blood; mine is football.
My early years were dedicated entirely to the dream of kicking the Sherrin around on the hallowed turf of the MCG, on the penultimate weekend of the season. To live out any dream is what drives us, it makes us anticipate each day with the desire to achieve and an appeal to seeking the hardships of life, knowing that the glory of fulfilment would be oh so sweet as a result. Most of my dreams were played out in my imagination, being a Bulldog supporter and having a track record like theirs, I kind of had to; there weren’t too many real life moments of premiership glory to draw upon.
The boy commentary with each chip and run, my celebrations after a miraculous goal from behind a tree, much to the delight of my adoring imaginary crowd. All in the space of my own backyard. A ride over the arms of the living room sofas was a regular occurrence. The simulation being some the game’s greats holding onto breath taking speccies which, for me, brought the phrase, ‘practise makes perfect’ to another level; much to mum’s annoyance. Socks and pillows copped hidings, playing their role of indoor footballs and opposition players. The imagination realms that I entered were endless, all in the hope that one day, I would play them out in real life.
I had some weird idea that fame would bring about this heir of heroism and that I could make an impact on others only if I were well known. Over the past few years and particularly of late, it has become more and more apparent that the everyday people of society are the true heroes and all of what I have experienced in the last few months may not have ever occurred at all without these faceless contributors. I still dream of changing the world, but maybe in a different light. Creating young superstars in the community, helping someone believe in themselves or even just bringing a small gift of positivity upon someone. This occurs for me when I watch the Western Bulldogs each weekend; I can’t help but smile with pride. What an exhilarating ride this team and this amazing sport has brought me.
The correlation with every event in my life to that of footy is no real coincidence; I have lived and breathed it forever. Footy controls my thoughts, my moods, my angst and even my general conversations with everyone and anyone. As a child, a life without footy was inconceivable, recalling childhood memories invariably has corresponding football memories. My first birthday party, the Bulldogs, helped by a six goal to one first quarter, ran riot over the Crows at Football Park. I sat in bed with Dad cheering the red, white and blue for no reason other than my hero, Dad, was modelling this soon to become obsession. The emotion of the experience was, despite unknowingly participating, something that would boil over from within time and time again over the rest of life until this day. My 6th birthday, the highlight was not the cake nor the game of pass-the-parcel, moreover, when Dad brought out a big bag of all his old Footscray Guernseys and let us just run laps of the front yard with them draping over our tiny but energetic bodies. Paul Hudson, son of the famous goal kicker Peter, kicked a huge bag against the Lions, at the then Colonial Stadium, the day I had my first drop of alcohol and even I ask myself, ‘why do you remember this stuff?’
I had chicken pox as a seven year old, don’t remember the experience much; just the bit where Billy Brownless kicked a goal after the siren to help Geelong beat the Doggies under lights at the ‘G in a final. I dominated a game of under 10’s footy in the 8:00am fog the morning of the most scrutinised game in Chris Grant’s career against the Hawks at Optus Oval. I remember hearing the whispers as we entered the ground half way through the first quarter; we hadn’t made the opening bounce despite playing our game that morning earlier than usual, just to get there in time. “Granty’s in trouble with that hit” one Hawthorn supporter said to his mate. I turned back to give him a death stare for even speaking such nonsense of my favourite player. The famous number three was later suspended in unprecedented circumstances, which eventually cost the champion the Brownlow Medal.
Perhaps though, the most memorable time, that links perfectly to the recent experience with our friends at Perth Children’s Hospital, is that of my own journey to hell and back with a truly extraordinary injury. The injury itself is a story for another time, but the time spent in hospital was completed riding every bump with the mighty Dogs in their most tumultuous, near entity ending year from hell, 1996. I watched from my hospital bed Mark Mercuri, from Essendon, break our hearts in the final round that year; turning the result of the game and possibly the minds of the umpires, inflicting a one vote runner up result in the Brownlow for Chris Grant, that’s right he should’ve won two.
It was whilst in hospital though that something life changing happened. I had dreams to be an amazing footballer but until two of my favourite Footscray players walked into the level four ward, I never knew simply being a good person was what real heroes aspire to become. Steven Kretiuk, a hard nosed defender and the up and coming ruck super star, Luke Darcy strolled towards my bed with confidence, a rush engulfed me as I sat up straight. A huge lump in my throat appeared and, if it weren’t for my body being connected to drips and needles, I would’ve bounded straight to my feet for a kick with them. They could’ve come and just sat next to me, asking the logical questions, ‘who’s your favourite player?’, ‘which position do you play?’ for all I cared. Instead, something very different happened. ‘Darc’, as I knew him asked Mum several questions about how the experience had impacted her and had she be given time off. ‘Kredda’ asked me about the needles and if the doctors were showing interest in me. I, although merely a Year 3 student, thought curiously as to why so much care. They don’t need to be there; in fact they probably had to be. At the time, it meant a lot to my mum more so than me but it was something small like this experience that planted the seed of respect forever. The smallest things in life are what matter most. In football or life, if we do the small things well, no matter the situation the bigger things look after themselves. It’s commonly known in the football world as ‘The Process’. We hear about it all the time as if a course for all newly drafted players has been created so that when they are later interviewed on television or radio, they can harp on about ‘The Process’. As an adult, I live by my interpretation of what went on that day. The way I treat those around me is with respect. For when I am no longer in the lives of those around me they will remember. Not what I said to them or even what I did for them but most importantly, how I made them feel. Not that I thought Luke Darcy would ever remember but two years later, I bumped into him as he strolled, with that all too familiar swagger, into a practice match. I felt privileged to do so and what shocked me most was that he remembered that sick little boy from the hospital. As part of the AFL community service or player profile image, I’m sure he had to visit thousands of kids, but he remembered. I can’t speak for other clubs but this was special. I look at Marcus Bontempelli now and see the same qualities; maturity, wisdom and that ability to forever pedestal others, that is something heroic. The brand of footy the Dogs have exhibited this past twelve months has been breath taking but the demeanour they, as individuals and as a club of players, coaches, and support stuff, have continually displayed is what has earned the greatest respect.
So there has been, in my life, like the history of the Western Bulldogs, a lot of pain, trauma and times of hardship but if all else has failed to show ultimate signs of success and triumph, one thing is for certain; complete and utter respect will shine through. The people around you will always be green with envy of what you achieve but can always strive to replicate. What is hardest to accomplish is to hold the respect of others. It takes very little to lose but treasured and held as sacred if earned. Don’t admire the tales I tell or the acts that I embrace, embrace the feeling that watching them brings.
This Saturday brings about some unchartered territory for me as my beloved Doggies have reached the grand finale for the first time in my life time and then some. I stand in awe of the club and its current playing group for what they are about to embark on. More than just the hope of premiership glory, for they make me proud to associate myself with a community built on hardship, disappointment and everlasting hope. So with every experience I continue to have in life, football remains the constant. I have learnt so much from experience and football together but perhaps most importantly, I have learnt how to be a better person from the experiences of football. Maybe I am admired, just like Luke Darcy and Steven Kretiuk despite not being the famous footballer I once aspired to be. If I am, I can guarantee it is from that Footscray bred respect, selfless, all-giving respect. And boy does it feel good. Regardless of how this weekend pans out, I’ll sit there in the Great Southern Stand soaking in how it feels to be respected. Respected as a proud part of the Western Bulldogs. How envious you must be. How to be more bulldog? To answer the question that this blog has been posing, will this weekend bring about life changing experiences? The answer is, no but to be in the company of die hard supporters willing to give up everything for their team whilst watching a band of young men working to earn their respect on the biggest stage in Australia will be so special.
One might think that living on a cloud has its amazing perks; where the world just passes you by, without a worry in the world. You are so far from reality that nothing really matters; no stress at work, no battles amongst your social network, you just seem to be in check with what really matters in life.
I can’t physically understand how it would feel to be floating away as the chaotic tech-savvy, narcissistic, and almost robotically driven world buzzes from all around. ‘What are you on about?’, you may be asking whilst reading. I honestly find it hard to write about the most inspiring, heart-warming and positively eye-opening experience that I have had in years. It happened last night.
With thanks to our real life heroes at Princess Margaret Children’s Hospital, my magicians and I trooped on into what truly is a magician's paradise. The unimaginable miracles that are worked on a daily basis in this place is mind blowing. As I walked into the building; that from the outside reminded me of some sort housing commission block and, without seeing signage, could’ve passed for a factory of some description (be assured, the eagerness of the people within to see the grand opening of the newest children’s hospital is at eruption point), I worry that I’m not going to have enough time to fulfil my routine nightly checklist. What if this goes well passed seven or eight? My ego examines the negativity of this whole visit. Will I be too tired to make my lunch and prepare my busy Thursday when I get home, putting me further behind the eight ball of what is fast becoming the last stanza of my busy Term three? Me. Me. Me. In fact I’ll add ‘poor’ to that. Poor me. Something completely engulfs me when I see the beauty of the rainbow lit tunnel at the entry of the 'Kid’s Megazone' on level seven.
One: this overwhelming gush of euphoria; this place is literally a mystical playground, something from a child’s wildest dream! And two: the look on the mighty magician’s faces was simply breath taking, they got tingles as they rushed from the lollipop graphics to the air-hockey machine. They giggled with excitement as they eyed off the multi-player Nintendo Wii station and touched the precious Snoopy dolls with delicate appreciation, for this was living proof one could be as happy as a kid in a candy shop! Just to watch this all unfold was invigorating. I knew we were all in for one memorable evening!
The real magic was about to begin. We were introduced in the auditorium and in an instant, we had escaped the stresses and worries that our egotistical lives would be usually dwell on. Our performance ended up being sound but that’s irrelevant now. What we all witnessed next was the single most heart-warming event of my recent tenure as a global citizen. Enter the stars of the show!
The night was organised by the team at Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation, dedicated entirely to the families of long time champions, otherwise unknown survivors of life threatening illnesses. As they entered, the smell of warm popcorn they inhaled filled their tiny and even deformed lungs. ‘This is mouth watering!’, one child spoke to his mum. Frowns were non-existent as smiles were clearly an unconscious pre-requisite for all involved; it was easy to forget where we actually stood. At this stage, I was sure we were about to see fairies appear. If you have never truly felt that magic from within, that warm fuzzy, uncontrollable sensation in your chest, this is the place to go. You can’t help but stumble irrepressibly, trying desperately to collect your oozy heart as it melts on the spot. In every direction I looked, the same smile found its way to my face.
My magicians were in their element; they had been shown the keys to the big bad world, away from their fishbowl towns and unlocked something magical. This magical experience had completely overpowered all of us. “That little boy is the cutest…”, one started up, only to have another of my faithful assistants butt in. “What about the little girl, I just want to go give her a huge high five!” Like any mentor, this was a moment of triumph. The whole purpose of bringing the young magicians along was in part to give them opportunity to see the world, to give them exposure to something more than Facebook, selfies and teen drama. In this moment, I stood back and watched as if a proud parent- they have made it- they get it- there’s a gift to be given in every life experience and they were unknowingly receiving one of the best they may ever obtain.
As each patient showed off their short film, with the help from Stitches; the warm and cuddly bear, face of the Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation, my heart pounded more. Each child has so much to offer and their bravery throughout their lives, despite being mere fractions of our own in length, is simply astonishing. What I admired most was the courage of the parents. I watched the film with the respective parent in my periphery and, as the tears welled, my heart begun to reverberate with an overwhelming realisation; we are all living in a state of predictability. We believe living on a cloud is an ideal, a dream. These families though, they live on a cloud each and every day. On a negative; they don’t’ if they’ll get wet, the cloud may leak from time to time. They don’t know if the cloud will hold much longer and send them on a spiralling pursuit to a traumatic crash. They worry if the cloud is covering some welcome sunshine from rearing its rays on their unpredictable lives. What they do know is that this cloud is heavenly, it ironically keeps them grounded and keeps their thoughts and prayers safe; away from the sheltered egocentric society that goes about their self-centred life below. For the worry of whether your latest post will get an ideal amount of likes is irrelevant. The squabble between colleagues is vapour, not even worth registering its existence, for on the family’s cloud, positivity and the ability to smile keeps it levitated well above those minor things that make the average Joe's blood boil. These families have more than reason to feel the world is out to get them, to breathe negativity, yet they pursue each day with positivity and a medicine that has a funny way of creating contagion with everyone they interact with; a smile.
What would it be like to live on a cloud? These beautiful souls are living proof. A cloud worth dreaming about is a life worth saving! Dreams can come true, magic only exists if you believe it's real! Please give kindly to the Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation.
JustZeusBooks create your own magic!
It only comes around once a year, kids from around the country are mighty excited and anticipation fills the weeks leading up. Now don’t mistake this time for that of a visit from Saint Nick and his reindeers.
Parents race around, making the final touches to what is to be the ‘best’ year yet; last minute visits to the store, final stitching and tying of bows. Please take note, we’re playing for sheep stations here. It lasts for a whole week; parades, sharing and even special visits that trance us in wonder. No, it’s not our festive season in December, it’s something much more. I-pads and Nintendo and phones take a back seat; even if it’s just for while, for there’s nothing quite like that tactile experience. Its rigid spine and glossy face; it headlines in all its glory! A book, of course. Bravo, for Book Week has arrived!
Perhaps though, the most excited of all the children during this time are the ones who bring those smiles most readily, the authors and illustrators themselves!
‘Book Week’, Christmas for all those folks with their names on the covers of our beloved paperbacks. It is quite the experience seeing eyes glistening with ambition, without one set of googlies being glued to screens. To stand and present is a gift in itself, but to present a book is something very, very special. Something I can say I am lucky enough to have done. To stand before our inspired future and verbalise the bold world I use to live in when books were a gateway into one’s imagination and television was for adults and the boredom dwellers is something quite surreal. Even more so eerie is the sea of eyes that watch in complete disbelief.
“You mean, your imagination was your entertainment?” A question is posed. “Why yes…” I reply despondent, though empathetically.
See I was once the “techno” generation, where we needed to get outside and play more or sink our minds into the covers of a book in order to develop some idea of what really goes on beyond the front fence.
There’s nothing though quite as astonishing or important during one of my productions as the magic that takes place without the presence of digital technology. Conversation. The kids laugh at my quirky spin on being a kid and their hearts sink with sympathetic glee whilst they discover each other’s times of hardship and triumph. The air is suddenly filled with something reminiscent of home, a safe place where people smile and share in great company. It’s empowerment, it’s inspiration. It’s a bond that goes beyond just ‘you give, I take’. It’s friendship.
‘All this from a book and its message of dreams and resilience?’ You may query. It is rather hard to explain it until you see, but the experience of sharing a book to one, two or two-hundred kids is much much more than simply speaking and listening. And this is why books are so important. They really are spellbinding. The ownership of interpretation you have can only be sold to others through conversing. How powerful is that? Some say, ‘knowledge is power’, I feel it should be, ‘reading is power’. And, ‘sharing is all conquering’. The experience of reading and sharing a book may last only minutes but the impact may last a lifetime.
People now ask me, ‘so you’re an author who inspires kids?’ The answer is simple, no. I am an everyday person who encourages others to create. Children inspire my creation and Book Week enriches my writing. Try it out; grab a great book, share its beauty and go and live with a true zest for life. At JustZeusBooks we urge everyone to create their own magic and what better way to start than by reading a book? What better time to start than in Book Week? Happening across Australia right now.
JustZeusBooks. Read. Write. Create.