I recently started digging through a large box of letters and photos from the prehistoric past. I chucked out a lot of rubbish photos, but I was surprised to find some fantastic stuff, still in the bulky paper wallets I had picked them up in.
I have always taken arm's length self portraits - this one is from early 1990. I always go for that serious expression that people in art photographs have. I had just moved to Melbourne, hooked up with an expat Tasmanian friend and found a flat in Elwood (the hi-rise part not the gracious tree-lined part). We had no kitchen curtains so we used a phone extension bedecked with tea towels for a little privacy.
This is my nephew Brin. He and his family lived on a little farm at Henrietta in north west Tasmania at this stage. I would guess this is 1996 or early 1997. He came to stay with us last month - he's my height now and about 12 months away from joining the navy.
I read some of the old letters, including one from a Croatian guy named Vilim I used to spend a lot of time with. I played soccer against him at high school, then got to know him better at art school. He moved to Melbourne around the same time as me. We played indoor soccer together over there and kept in touch for a long time after I moved back here. I met Elf about the time his wife Maryana had their first child. I think due to these big changes we lost touch.
When I read Vilim's letter I was overwhelmed with how hard we all used to work to keep in touch then - no Facebook or SMS or email. We wrote letters - on the train, at work, in front of the TV, at the park, when we should have been studying. We posted photos to each other of what we were doing. I felt like a careless miserable sod for letting such good friends just drift away.
Of course now its generally so easy to find someone - I used online White Pages and had them in seconds. I did not really want to ring as I am mildly phone-phobic, so I wrote him a short letter.
After I had finished it I realised that while I am here in 2010, I was writing my letter to Vilim and Maryana as they were in 2000 - young, energetic, go-getting people who did it all - into art, music, movies, sport, but adjusting to life with a new baby. In their world no-one had the internet at home, or could take pictures with their phone. Friends was still going strong. The tallest buildings in New York were the twin towers. I was sending a letter back in time.
So I hunted around on the web for an email address - I had to speed this all up. Turns out Vilim is running a tea import business now, and I emailed him there. I had a reply almost immediately, and we were back in business. I was very brave and rang him last night, and it was terrific to speak with him about all the changes in our lives. We are just a couple of dads now, still playing soccer, with terrific wives who do all the hard stuff for us. We are doing alright.