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Friday, June 5, 2020

A Fortunate (early) Life


Albert Facey's book covers pretty much his whole life; this little story covers just four months starting in September 1972 when I stupidly accepted my employers' transfer from Bougainville Island to the company's head office in Sydney.

Having played a vital part in the company securing the multi-million-dollar catering contract on the Bougainville Copper Project - see here - I was seduced by the title of 'Group Financial Controller' to exchange my hands-on job of accountant/office manager on a tropical island for the anonymity of an office desk and a furnished room in the big city.

How I came by that furnished room is now lost in the mist of time but it was inside that large, hip-roofed, rambling building to the right of the almost-flat-topped building in the photo crowned by a yellow marker (which, incidentally, is "The Bradfield", a recently completed collection of seven multi-million-dollar apartments with an unknown price tag - "If you need to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it!")

The large, hip-roofed, rambling building was back in the 1970s one of the many boarding-houses dotting the cityscape which fulfilled the very important social function of housing the very young who couldn't afford anything better yet, and the very old who'd fallen through the cracks.

I lived in a room off the top floor landing which was usually occupied by a woman standing by an ironing-board who offered her services to other boarders (read this whichever way you like and you'd probably be right). My room was furnished in an already at that time antiquated fashion, and afforded me a view across Lavender Bay if I stood on my toes and craned my neck to look over the swivel-mirror-topped dresser which shut out the view but not the nightly noise from Luna Park.

There was no swivel-mirror-topped dresser to obscure the million-dollar view of the Harbour Bridge, and the Opera House still being built, when sitting on a bench in the boarding-house's expansive gardens. Later developers must've been of the same opinion because the boarding-house, although externally maintained, is no more, nor are the expansive gardens which are covered by new 'trophy' apartments.

In exchange for a grand-sounding job title and the security of a monthly salary cheque, I had joined the will-less and witless as they shambled their way to work in the big city. Four salary cheques later, I'd regained enough faith in my ability to opt for risk instead of safety, for living instead of existing, and got up from my desk and walked out whistling.

When Albert Facey was asked in an interview where the name of his book had originated, he replied, "I called it 'A Fortunate Life' because I truly believe that is what I had". And so do I!

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