Almanac Life: Apollo 23





I turned sixty last week. Thanks. With my party days well and truly in the rear view mirror, I was more than happy with a steak the size of one of my buttocks and a Peters ice cream cake.


As I’ve aged, I have found myself being more reflective and thinking of my own mortality.


Some of that comes from being bi-polar and having a ‘fog’ sitting over my head much of the time, but I’ve realised recently that I’ve lived vicariously with the values given to me by my late Mum who would be a hundred years of age now.


By any measure, she had a very tough life but she always pushed through adversity and put everyone else first. She was also very cheeky, in fact naughty, and had little time for ‘show offs’ or ‘big noters’.


Before bi-polar infiltrated my psyche around the age of 15, I was quite clever and loved education. At Medina Primary School I was the Head Prefect and Dux in my final year of Grade 7.


The award ceremony was to be held in the school quadrangle one evening and parents were invited. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t invite my parents because I was embarrassed by their age.


My dad was sixty and mum was fifty two. The other parents were in their 20s and early 30s. I understand it was a teenage thing but despite them never letting on, I’m sure they were hurt by my action.


As my name was read out as the Dux of the school and I approached the Headmaster Mr Godley at the front of the assembly, I spotted my parents hiding in a dark corner, proud as punch.


After the formalities I quickly said hello and they took off knowing their presence wasn’t required. I felt sick with guilt. The two most authentic people I knew had just witnessed their promising child become a precocious little brat.


My mum could never let a learning opportunity get past her. Unlike Mr and Mrs Brady on TV, we were never sat down and lectured through what was wrong and right.


Mum’s modus operandi was usually based on subtle revenge. If I were to be a pretentious kid who wasn’t grateful for having food, shelter and clothing then I would soon learn.


My home town of Medina in WA was a Housing Commission community and 50% of the houses including ours, were asbestos. When I was 13, I discovered our street Crabtree Way, was due for overdue paint jobs on the houses.


I could only ever remember our house being in a state of disrepair on the outside. The original paint was a sky blue but it had worn down to the point that the pink undercoat was so patchy it looked like military camouflage.


When word came through that the houses were getting painted it was simply a matter of nominating which colour you wanted. I pleaded with my parents to pick a nice blue. Not that I was capable of finding a girlfriend but there was no way I could bring anyone back to the house in its current state or if they decided to choose say…grey for instance as the new colour.


On the day of the paint job I ran home from school only to find the house painted cemetery grey. Lesson learnt and subsequent revenge committed. If your imaginary girlfriends are worth their salt and like you for who you are, they won’t give a shit what the exterior of your house looks like. She didn’t say that. She didn’t need to.


Mum and Dad were years ahead of their time in terms of recycling. Nothing was wasted and heaven forbid Glen and I received something nice on Xmas Day like a T shirt or shorts because a week later we would spot another local waif wandering around the streets wearing them.


One of Mum’s classic lines was, “always look after those worse off than yourself”, to which my younger brother Glen would retort, “there is no one worse off than us!”


We would do family trips to the local tip and scour rubbish looking for ‘knick knacks’ and recyclables that mum could help those less fortunate with. It was fun for Glen and I until I reached teenage-hood, when it no longer became cool. No urging from Mum could get me in the car for a couple of hours family time at the Municipal Tip.


Not long after and a year or so after the house painting drama, word on the street was that the Housing Commission were replacing all the wood stoves in the houses with gas stoves.


This seemed logical and would bring us out of the 1930s so I was up for it. What I underestimated was that the wood stove was all my Mum knew her entire life.


It would be a difficult parting for her and frankly the scones, cakes and roasts from a wood stove were spectacular. Despite the protestations, I was on the side of progress and insisted that she moved on and ‘get with the scene man’. She gave me a wry grin as if to say, “you’ll keep.”


I arrived home from school on the day of the changeover and immediately smelled gas. I walked into the kitchen and Mum had her head in the oven, suicide-style and with the room engulfed in gas, was ‘clicking’ the igniter incessantly. We were about to be blown to kingdom come.


I pulled her away from the new oven, cleared the gas and asked her how on earth she was going to manage this new apparatus. She replied that she didn’t need to.


It appeared that when the tradies came to install the new stove they of course removed the old wood stove. Mum asked them if they could leave it in the backyard to which they agreed.


My Dad found some old aluminum sheet down the tip which he fashioned into a chimney, and Apollo 23 was created. 23 being 23 Crabtree Way Medina.


My home, my weird and totally unfashionable home, where valuable life lessons were learnt from ‘never judging a book by its cover’ to ‘being grateful for what you have’ to the ‘importance of selflessness’.


The lessons were all there, mostly delivered in unorthodox methods but they were all there.




More from Ian Wilson can be read Here.



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About Ian Wilson

Former army aircraft mechanic, sales manager, VFA footballer and coach. Now mental health worker and blogger. Lifelong St Kilda FC tragic and father to 2 x girls.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Fab read Ian! Often those lessons/knowledge so subtly imparted upon us by our parents go unnoticed or unappreciated at the time until much later in life. It’s only then do you acknowledge the importance of the role your parents played in your upbringing and development, and sometimes it is too late to thank them for it.

  2. Well said Col. You don’t appreciate the sacrifices they made until you find yourself walking in their shoes years later. Many thanks

  3. Great stories and message. Thanks Ian.
    Reading Sarah Krasnostein’s feature piece in the latest Monthly about the outback murders of the Queensland police. It’s really a broader piece about the roots of extremism. A line that struck me was “It’s not like they’re looking for a conspiracy theory – they’re just looking for a community.” (And find it in dangerous and harmful places).
    Chatting to a gambling researcher about the roots of Australia’s gambling addiction, I said I thought money was our central ideology. “Money is the solution to everything” has become the western and Australian cultural underpinning. In my life it was reversing the thinking that “when I’m rich then I’ll be happy”.
    When I worked on happiness, fulfilment and sharing – then money and other riches came (and stayed) readily.
    Your mum was onto something.

  4. Ian Wilson says

    Thanks Pete. Yes Mum always believed that doing good for people, especially those in difficult circumstances would yield a wealthy life spiritually, and if you were lucky, monetarily. “Something will always turn up” she would say and I reckon for the most part it’s been the case for me. Stay the course of kindness and selflessness and eventually good things happen. Many thanks.

  5. John Harms says

    Wonderful stories Ian. I appreciate your honesty and openness.

  6. Ian Wilson says

    Thanks John appreciate it cheers

  7. E.regnans says

    Happy birthday Ian.
    And congratulations on dux of Medina Primary School.
    What a world.
    More than ever I subscribe to the Cheshire Cat’s views.

    Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
    The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
    Alice: I don’t much care where.
    The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
    Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.
    The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.

  8. Lovely reminiscence, Ian.

    And a great photo of your folks with Apollo 23.

  9. Ian Wilson says

    Fine advice David! Can’t argue with the Cat. Thanks Smoke much appreciated. Cheers gents

  10. Terrific read Ian. Honest and to the heart of the matter.

    Another time and another place. Barely recognisable anymore.

    I’m approaching 60 as well. Can’t believe I’m that high. Apparently 60 is the new 50. I’ve never really understood what all that means.

  11. Ian Wilson says

    Thanks Dips. 60 may be the new 50, but the arthritis doesn’t agree with that! Cheers mate

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