New Readers - Des is Lilly's occasional guest blogger and her 81 year old father. You can read his first post here.
Lilly let me come back. With one proviso. That I don’t tell too many stories about her.
I didn’t make any promises so I’ll see what I can get away with.
I told you I was going to share my father’s Six Essentials of Life with you.
If you’re looking for something deep and meaningful about loving, laughing, learning and living you are not going to find it here. You might have better luck with a fortune cookie. My father’s advice wasn’t so special but the lessons it taught me were.
My father was a farmer who raised cattle, sheep and also grew wheat. He also owned a small horse stud and trained many winning racehorses and polo ponies many of which were sent to India. Shooting and riding were skills that most young men, especially those in rural areas, learned in their childhood and early teens so his advice is hardly surprising.
He told me to:
1. Learn to be a good horseman.
2. Have pets and look after them.
3. Always have a vegetable garden.
4. Own a pocket knife and gun and learn to use them properly.
5. Play team sports.
6. Treat everyone with respect no matter who they are.
Now all that sounds a bit simple doesn’t it?
I think the lessons we need to learn as children are no different today. Children need to be shown how to live not just told how to live.
I rode a horse from when I was a baby. That’s me on my horse at 12 months old. You may notice I was bald. That’s why I have a good head of hair now. I was a late starter and I hope to be a slow finisher. I used to ride my horse Nabob six miles to and from school each day. I learnt not only how to ride and look after a horse but more importantly how to fall off a horse and get back up again. Sometimes we need to let our children fall and get up on their own in order to develop the resilience they need to cope with life’s ups and downs.
Living on a farm, I had lots of pets. I had a pet kangaroo, lambs, calves, dogs, chickens, pigeons, cats and a goat. That’s me on the left with my goat Billy (no, I am not very creative, my kangaroo’s name was Joey). Animals teach us some amazing lessons - embracing change positively, unconditional acceptance, moving past fear and bringing out the best in each other.
I’ve always had a vegetable garden no matter where I’ve lived. That’s a picture of me this week in my new vegetable garden. As well as the obvious benefits, which are particularly poignant in our current economic times, it’s a very healthy pastime. You get exercise by being active outdoors, it’s convenient as you can just go and pick your vegetables when you need, you know what you’re eating and the produce is significantly cheaper than buying it from a shop. I think the best lesson I learnt though is that you can bury a lot of your troubles in the dirt. Everyone needs a place to bury their troubles.
When I was a child the pocket knife was the first universal tool you were given. To skin rabbits or carve cricket bats. I realise now that today schools have to confiscate guns and knives as kids come into school. Dangerous tools are both powerful and empowering at the same time. There are many more dangerous things that children get access to these days. I don’t think we should try to keep our children away from danger, thinking we can protect them. If they are available, and invariably they are drawn to it, we need to make sure they know how to handle themselves and understand the impact of danger.
Sport was a very important part of my life well into my fifties. I played tennis, football and cricket. Sport teaches you to be a modest winner and a good loser. You develop a stronger sense of belonging, are more involved in the community, are less self-centred and open to learning. What I learnt was that life is not a spectator sport. It is a full contact event requiring your action and participation. We all need to give it our all.
My father’s advice of being nice and respectful to others sounds like a platitude but it is the only thing to do. He taught me that people should be respected and trusted as people, not because of their position or title. Frequently, position or title did not reflect the true merits of a person.
And finally, the best advice my father gave me was, 'when everything gets really complicated and you feel overwhelmed, you have to do three things. First, get the car out of the ditch. Second, find out how the car got into the ditch. Third, make sure you do whatever it takes so the car doesn't go into the ditch again.'
Given this is so long, I just have a quick ‘Lilly story’ that she told me today. Lilly is on her usual creative splurge before Christmas. Today she went into a fabric shop and when she approached the counter, the shop assistant asked her loudly, ‘Are you a bag lady?’ ‘Excuse me?’ Lilly said. Lilly was insulted thinking this woman was casting aspersions on her. The lady, finally realising that Lilly didn’t have a clue what she was talking about, explained that anyone who was doing their latest sewing course to make bags gets a 10% store discount and participants are known as ‘bag ladies’. So, it looks like Lilly is not only not normal but a bag lady as well...
What do you think was the best advice your mother or father gave you?
PS To Lilly’s Aussie readers I am off to the Melbourne Cup celebrations (biggest horse race in Australia) tomorrow and I hope you pick a winner.