Thursday, April 12, 2018

Shapes - Remembering Jean McEwan

This past week, my family said a tearful farewell to a woman who had a profound influence on our lives. Jean McEwan, my grandmother, passed away after a short illness, aged 95 years. Her funeral was less a solemn service and more a celebration of her life - a life that was full and lived well. The following is a piece my cousin and I put together over a couple of phone calls, plenty of tears and a little bit of laughter. We read this together at Nana's service.


by Dean Mayes and Keryn McEwan.


The squat little heater that sits on the hearth in the North Road living room. Its kerosene globe glows red, warming our bodies as the rain patters the tin roof. We watch the black and white TV; munching her homemade pasties as big as house bricks, or perhaps it was a bowl of her famous pea and ham soup. We play along with the quiz show and we marvel at her sharp mind, her worldly knowledge, as she deftly answers question after question in between the click-clack of her knitting needles - with a wink and a smile.


The tall glass bottles she collects; Alpine soft drink all the colours of the rainbow. She serves them with ice blocks on warm summer days with her legendary Anzac biscuits and we sit under the liquid amber, playing with Matchbox cars at the base of the trunk, contemplating – but never conquering – a climb of that mighty tree. Her eyes were everywhere, our safety never in question when she was nearby. The empty soft drink bottles we carry to the corner shop, exchanging them for coins to then buy bags of lollies. We return to her in our sugar rush and she greets us by her rose bushes with her wink and her smile.


The chintzy silver Christmas tree, the only one I ever knew existed. Adorned with bright, colourful baubles that reflect the love of family gathered in the living room to exchange gifts, warm hugs and festive laughter. She sweeps into the room with platters of treats, inviting us to eat; her bell voice urging, “Come on, come on, there’s more to come.” The tiny kitchen has been prepared, a banquet of her finest cooking. Christmas ham, vegetables, her handmade Christmas puddings and cakes. She stands at the head of the table, ready to receive her diners, always with her wink and her smile.


Her beloved fuschias; her pride and joy. Little fingers always found their way to those fat, pink teardrops to squeeze and delight in the pop of the buds – not appreciating it was too early for them to bloom. There’s not much that makes her wild, but a popped fuschia always does. The fallen leaves of the liquid amber to, so easy to kick through, spread far and wide across the hillside lawn. She chases us with the handle of the rake as she scurries to banish the leaves into neat piles. Or our feats of daring involving that clothesline. The run-up was perfect. Our leaps superhuman. Our giggles merciless. No wink or smile from her then.


She was at the centre of all of us. Mum, Nana, Little Aunty Jean. As we branched out, embraced our callings and created circles of our own, she gave a little bit of herself to ours, ensuring that she would live on in many lifetimes. We are the chef, the hairdresser, the nurse, the businesswoman, the professionals, the servicemen and women. She has seen us achieve and has reveled in our success – always with that wink and that smile.

A friend of mine recently wrote, “I don’t believe in life after death or even in a moment that stays on beyond itself...What I do believe in is momentum – that one thought leads to another; that people leave shapes in other people, and those shapes carry forward.”

Nana has left shapes in all of us.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dangerous Ideas - A Conversation between Dean Mayes & Alice Fraser

I had the opportunity to catch up with one of my favorite people recently. Alice Fraser is a comedian, writer, podcaster and fascinating interlocutor. Alice is performing her new comedy show "Ethos" across Australia and during her run in Adelaide, we sat down in a little teahouse in the back streets of Adelaide's CBD and recorded an hour of really valuable conversation for her podcast "Tea With Alice".

We wrestled with some dangerous ideas that were a little hard to coax from me initially but eventually we got into a flow where I was able to articulate some thoughts I had about the #MeToo movement - my perceived exclusivity of the movement and how, as a male who has experienced sexual violence from a female perpetrator, the movement seems unable to handle the lived experience of those who don't fit an accepted narrative.

From there, we ventured into more philosophical territory, exploring how the modern discourse can be overwhelming to someone who is trying to understand and extend their understanding of the world beyond their simple origins. think I made the point at one stage that, as I get older, the less I feel I understand of the world and how to navigate my way through it.

We also talked about my adventures with botox and how it is keeping my throat from killing me. Oh - and my adventures in writing a man. 

Alice Fraser is a rare individual with a lightning intellect, a worldly outlook and a huge heart and I always treasure our catch ups. As I said, she is touring her show throughout 2018 here in Australia and the UK so if you're a fan of thought provoking comedy, I highly recommend you catch her show. 

Download & Listen to our conversation here

Visit Alice Fraser here

Tweet with Alice here