Having a beautifully kept hedge pleases me immensely but reality of having to care for it pleases me less. My Mock Orange hedge to the street, now 7 years tall requires ladders and planks to keep it tidy, and as result is constantly unkempt. I often think a better hedge species might have been Orange Pekoe with which I could have started the New Farm Tea Plantation. The act of harvesting by the plantation worker would have keep it constantly coiffed, with the benefit of free tea for life.
Whilst recently trimming this oft unruly hedge, I had a strong recollection of my father who passed away suddenly a year ago. He visits my thoughts daily — different activities being the catalysts for varying scenes from a lifelong reel of memories. Sitting on top of the ladder, my thoughts wandered from how hard and methodically he worked his gardens, the distinct scent of him, to other acts of trimming.
Until his late fifties Dad was clean shaven. He found facial hair very irritating , especially on the faces of his sons, so it came as a shock when at the age of sixty on an extended holiday, he grew a beard. His scraggy white growth became part of who he was and he never shaved it off and indeed, rarely trimmed it.
My father, Ian, was an engineer, and on retirement he took up painting, not to be confused with the other Ian Fairweather, the famous abstract painter from Bribe Island. At the time I regularly showed my own paintings at Jan Murphy Gallery. One of the fondest and enduring memories is a joint show of landscape paintings we held at Jan’s Gallery in 2007. It was a sellout and one of his proudest moments, and am forever grateful that I was able to share it with him.
Over the years I have been constantly asked whether I am related to Ian Fairweather.
Over this time, as an architect, I encountered many people who knew dad as our professions overlapped, though half the time the question was whether I was related to the famous abstract painter from Bribie.
It got particularly confusing when Dad began painting, even more so when he started to look like the other Ian Fairweather with his big bushy white beard.
At an Ian Fairweather exhibition cocktail party at the Queensland Art Gallery many years ago, I was repeatedly asked whether I was related. I explained, yes, my father is Ian, but he was an engineer, but now a painter, but no, not this Ian Fairweather. After an hour of extrapolated and unnecessary explanations, I just told the truth. Yes, Ian Fairweather is my father.
I felt vindicated when sometime later an article promoting the exhibition in a local newspaper mistakingly included a photo of dad.
For now, the hedge for is neat and tidy, and whilst by no means a work of art, but it won’t be long before it abstracts itself again and evokes fond memories of dad and his scraggly beard.