You don’t know how lucky you are

Archie FawthropToday marks a very special occasion for Janet’s family, it would have been her father’s 100th birthday.

Archie was in his 99th year, before slipping away from us last year.

He never experienced any major health problems during his lifetime, and his love of life alone would have been enough to see him through many more years, but his frail body said it was time for him to hang up his hat for the final time…

 We were lucky to have been able share his charm, wit, wisdom…his warmth, for so long.

We will celebrate his wonderful life this weekend, surrounded by family and friends, and whilst perhaps there will be a tinge of sadness there will be plenty of laughs in what will be a joyous occasion for all…

 And as I went for a walk through the park this morning I swear I heard him whisper his most famous line, the one that always brings an infectious smile to your face, the line that sums him up perfectly.

“You don’t know how lucky you are”…

 Ps: How cool is Archie on that motor-bike!

Cool? (You be the judge)

Cool? (You be the judge)

How cool is this photograph?

It is a picture of Janet’s father, Archie, on one of the many motorcycles he owned and was taken in Calcutta, India, where he lived during his youthful years.

No leathers, goggles, or helmets as we know them today.

Back then it was your suit and tie and a pith helmet.

And crikey, what a dashing figure he cut on that fantastic motorcycle.


You be the judge….

Life, Death, and Grief (We’ll miss you, mate)

archieon lakecaribou007

During these past few days following the passing of Janet’s father, I have been pondering on the cycle of life, death, and grief…

Surrounded by his loving family, Archie peacefully slipped away from us last week, while Clare, his partner of almost 60 years, held his hand, tenderly…

There was a feeling of deep sorrow and sadness as Arch let go of his final breath, tears were quietly shed as we sat silently in the dimmed light.

But there was also much to be thankful for.

Marys Birthday_0046

Archie was in his 99th year and he never experienced any major health problems during his lifetime. His love of life alone would have been enough to see him through many more years, but his aging body had simply become too frail to stave off what would normally be a minor illness for most…

We were lucky to have been able share his charm, wit, wisdom…his warmth, for so long.

In the predawn darkness following his passing my thoughts drifted to memories of times I had shared with Arch.

The early childhood stories that Janet and her brothers and sisters have shared many times. Of the travel to wonderfully exotic places that Clare has spoke excitedly of at every opportunity, and with whom she had shared with the love of her life, Archie, Archie Fawthrop…

A smile eased the tension in my face.


I thought about Archie’s life that began with his birth in Burma, of growing up in India, and boarding school in England, of his time as a Captain in the British Army during the war years. Of a sea voyage he took with his young daughter, Mary, to the country that claimed him as one of its own, Australia, and of the family that Clare and Archie so beautifully raised at Garden Grove


Archie welcomed me into his family with open arms and over the years I have valued his advice, his friendship, the stories he has told me…the laughs we have shared together.

The mere mention of his name will surely bring a grin to your face, and we’ve all got an Archie story, for there are many. And as the years pass they will be recounted like it was only yesterday that we were all together sharing the moment.

But on life, death, and grief…

Yes, we will all pass one day, but for me grief suggests I have lost something;  that something has been taken away from me.

But quite to the contrary.

Archie has given me much to be thankful for, beautiful memories, his wonderful daughter, Janet, with whom I am lucky enough to share my life, and our son TomO, who has more than just a shade of Archie in him, an overabundance of that wonderful “boyish-Archie-cheekiness”.

Currawinya National Park, Outback Australia

And as first light was beginning to pierce the eastern horizon and the warmth from those first rays of light filled my body, I swear I heard him whisper his most famous line, the one that always brings an infectious smile to your face, the line that sums him up perfectly.

“You don’t know how lucky you are”…

Take care Arch, we’ll miss you, mate…

Climbing Mt Everest drinking Ovaltine all the way

Looking back at old photographs is like opening a time capsule, you just never know what you are going to find, and usually there are one or two little gems to bring a smile to your face.

I was at my partner’s parents home recently, Clare and Archie who are 83 and 98 years old, and over a cup of tea we were flicking through books of old photographs.  The themes varied from trips overseas, the children growing up, and of Archie’s  childhood in India.

You could pick any photograph and Archie would narrate a rich account of when it was taken, and the story behind those who were in it. And there were photographs of Clare’s childhood days, growing up in far western Queensland on the family’s sheep property, and of her days at boarding school in Charters Towers.

The conversation turned to our upcoming adventures, and my journey to climb an 8,000 metre peak close to where Archie grew up. Over the years I have listened to the many stories of Archie’s trips to Darjeeling, situated  in the foothills of the Himalaya’s, and in later years of visits both he and Clare made back to Calcutta.

One story is about a mountaineering expedition group  who turned up at the offices of James Wright and Company, General Merchants, the family business in Calcutta.  The suave and handsome couple were in a rather irate mood as they stepped out of the taxi, demanding to know why they had not been met at the ship upon their arrival.  Being general merchants, Archie and his father dealt in all kind of goods, and were the agent’s in India for the popular drink Ovaltine.

“These mountaineers were here to climb Mt Everest and they were going to drink Ovaltine all the way to the top, extolling its virtues to the world.”

It had all been arranged in England prior to their departure and there was surprise and indignation that they had not been afforded the courtesies expected upon their arrival. They even had a copy of the telegram from the Head of the company that made Ovaltine in England informing of their visit.

This was a gentlemanly age and young Archie arranged for the expedition to be put up at a first class hotel where they could rest after their long sea voyage, and ahead of their attempt to climb Mt Everest.

And rest and avail themselves they did indeed…

Unfortunately, there was to be no attempt on Mt Everest as the mountaineers were well practiced con people. After spending a number of nights in the luxury of the first class hotel, taking advantage of the young Fawthrop’s generous hospitality, they disappeared into the night, leaving Archie with an expensive hotel bill and the need to provide an account to his father of how he had been done by a slick group of con artists’.

But he could be forgiven, after all Ovaltine accompanied Sir Edmund Hilary on his ascent of Mt Everest with Tenzing Norgay in 1953, and the company went on to sponsor Chris Bonnington’s 1975 Everest expedition.

And speaking of Tenzing Norgay, as we continued our journey through the albums one particular photograph caught my attention, a black and white snapshot of Clare and Archie, and I was sure it was Tenzing Norgay, the famous mountaineer, standing beside them.

On a visit to Darjeeling, Archie and Clare met and spoke with Tenzing, a remarkable and quietly spoken man, whilst dining at the Darjeeling Club.

TomO, our son,  was very excited at the discovery, a link to where we will travel next year when I attempt to climb three 6,000 metre peaks, Lobuche East, Island Peak, and Pokalde, all situated  not too far from Mt Everest.

“Was the Ovaltine story and the photograph a sign-post on our own journey, a connection to the region brought about from Archie’s younger days?  In the least, it enriches the experience for us…”

And as I climb in  the Himalaya’s Archie’s Ovaltine story will be sure to put a smile on my face, warming me like a hot cup of Ovaltine on a bleak winter’s night…