Greame was my cousin. He and I were born only a few months apart and people who saw us together would assume we were twins.
We were kindred spirits, partners in crime, best buddies.
Greame was the youngest child in his family and the only son. His sisters were more than ten years only than he was, so our closeness was somewhat of a sibling substitute for him.
Like me, he was curious and adventurous. His curious and adventurous nature extended far wider than mine did, however, and he had a tendency to take things just that little bit too far. For example, at his house the toilet was one of the old thunder box variety, Brisbane not being fully sewered in those days.
Greame’s dad charged Graeme with painting the toilet door. Seems easy and straightforward, doesn’t it? How could a ten year old boy get into trouble painting a toilet door?
Well, everything was going swimmingly until Lindy, the family dog, decided to check Graeme’s progress. Bad move, Lindy.
Greame painted the toilet door…and he painted the dog. Poor Lindy appeared in the kitchen with bright blue polkadots decorating her shiny black coat. Luckily it was a water based paint and washed out easily enough. Lindy, faithful hound that she was, held no grudges and always accompanied Greame on his adventures.
The local fire brigade were less impressed with Greame. Someone made the brave decision to give Greame a chemistry set for Christmas, obviously thinking that it might channel his inquiring mind in a more dog friendly direction. Again, bad move. Greame set up a bench under the house as his laboratory, and began his career as a scientist. He created all manner of noxious smells and several minor explosive devices. Poor Lindy nearly lost her tail when she was the test pilot of his jet propelled go-kart. Thankfully, Mrs K who lived next door was hosing her garden, when a flaming go-kart shot past her. She doused the flames and the dog.
Greame was undeterred. His next few efforts at creating a jet engine resulted in the firefighters being called in. My uncle accepted that the first instance was an accident but was less impressed by the subsequent blazes. The chemistry set was disposed of. Greame’s delight in experiments was not in any way diluted.
Greame and I were often accused of ganging up on my brother. We protested our innocence at the time but, looking back, I guess we did. It was our idea that my brother try parachuting from the roof of the tree house using an umbrella. It was our idea to sink my brother up to his thighs in mangrove mud. It was us who sat back and waited for the tide to come in to see if pirate tortures really worked. (They do, by the way.) Hmmm…yup, I guess we did give him a hard time.
Sadly Greame is no longer with us. He followed his enthusiasm for science and studied industrial chemistry. He was tragically killed in his early thirties. My children never got to meet him and he never had kids of his own.
His contribution to my childhood was profound. He challenged me. He encouraged me. He made me laugh until the tears ran down my face. He was my confidant and my shoulder to cry on. He was my first dance partner and the first boy I actually liked. I still miss him.