But he does break out sometimes, in a good cause. Privately he fancies himself a lyricist (and ignores unkind mates who suggest that he is actually a ‘limericist’).
After all, as he would never tire of telling people were it not for his immeasurable modesty, he’s a lifelong Wagtailean student. His favourite Willie Wagtail drama is ‘The Vulture of Venice’ – he often likes to quip that he always wants Moor of that – although in ‘Loves, Labours, Lost’ he admits to finding a measure of tragic inevitability.
So, anyway ... he does go on.
Getting to the point (ahem), he has recently burst into verse – of a sort – to mark the eight decades notched up by his great mate John Dwyer, of ‘Further Out’, Clumber, Queensland. Olympian; journalist; publican; farmer; carer and tutor of Hector the First, once Queensland’s most famous sulphur-crested cockatoo; and lover of Limericks, John is from Hec’s perspective the most Irish of Australians. He even does the accent, though not when he wants to be understood. And he’s a mean hand at a barbecue too.
The big day itself was July 10, but Mrs Dwyer – Nan, whose name in Bali would surely be Meng Lueng (mother of all) – organised a ‘gathering’ on Queensland’s Gold Coast a little earlier, timed to catch as many family members and friends as possible. Sadly, Hec and Mrs Hec couldn’t get there, but they sent some verse of their own to help proceedings along.
An Old Bird to Count On
Ode to a Fine Mate on his 80th Birthday
(Scratched at The Cage, Bali, by Hector the Second)
‘Far Out!’ said John Dwyer (long before he went Further)
‘I’ve got me a parrot, by heck. I’ll teach him to sing. I’ll teach him to count.
‘He’ll be the best bloody parrot that’s ever been seen.
‘And I’ll name him Hector; that I will. It’ll help with his erudition.’
And thus was born Hector, no bird to ignore.
Nor for that matter pleased to be ‘parrot’:
‘A cockatoo is what I am, a sulphur-crested one at that!
‘Does this bloke think I’m A BUDGIE?’
Now John being a journo is not one for sums,
(That’s a task for accountants; and possibly wives.)
But that didn’t stop him: ‘Hector must count.’
Though Hec thought he did; being wise, for a bird.
So mathematics was taught and Hector soon learned
A sequence of numbers to invoke when heard.
‘One ... two ... three ... five.
‘Missed the bloody four.’
His party piece; a parroting delight.
It gave everyone, including Hec, a fright:
So did the language, too salty for some.
‘John!’ exclaimed the long-suffering Nan.
If the original Hec were here to enjoy this affray,
He would doubtless complain at being left out of the play.
‘What’s this eighty?’ he’d ask. ‘Where does that fit in?’
‘I’ve missed the four, the six AND the seven.’
Happy Birthday, John. You’re a good bloke.