Andrew was many things, but beige and unforgettable was not one of them. He was cheeky, impulsive, generous and loving. His largesse when it came to gifts was well known, as was his erratic cash flow. He was reckless, with a short fuse (reputed to be inherited from a particular uncle) and did not suffer fools gladly. If he called you big fella or buddy you were okay. If he was unimpressed with you, you would be left in no doubt of the fact.
He loved his Connies, shorts and cardigans and trademark retro shirts or dark bonds t-shirts. His hair, with all its crazy Diffey/Levett curls was instantly recognisable. With those genes there was no way he was ever going to have straight hair. He had the ability to look straight down the lens of the camera while other people looked in the wrong direction or squinted. He was one of those people who always took a ‘good picture’.
Simon introduced me to Andrew when we were at uni. He flirted with me briefly using his blue eyes and long lashes to great effect – at that early stage he’d been an accomplished and compulsive flirt for years. Then he turned his attention to the enormous plate of tuna sushi that he had made which we only ate a fraction of. Over the years I learned that this was the way that Andrew cooked, with lots of enthusiasm and in large quantities. He loved food and loved to cook for his family and friends. At Mudgeegong he had made his own spit to roast lamb and other beasts on and had grand plans for building a brick oven out of a dunny.
Once when he visited he made what was to become a signature dish, exohiko, a greek dish that is made from roasted lamb, vegetables and haloumi. It was delicious but also enough to feed five families. In typical Andrew style the recipe starts with the ingredients “Take three lambs…” It was catering on a grand scale and delicious of course. Andrew, never an early riser (and would give anyone who woke him an earful dressed only in boxer shorts and a look of incandescent fury) eschewed breakfast, instead saving his appetite for dinner, the main event when he would pile his plate high with food and devour it with a satisfied air, accompanied by compliments and groans of pleasure.
Whenever he visited us on holidays, instead of resting he would work on whatever needed to be done, stripping wallpaper, mowing, cleaning with gusto that was impressive and exhausting to watch. At parties he was the one always manning the barbie or playing with the kids.
To us, Andrew really came into his own as an uncle. As a brother to Simon and a brother in law to myself he was always generous and loyal. As an uncle he was awesome and I know that the relationship between Jack and his Uncle Andy was very special. Andrew loved spending time with Jack and bought him the things that every cool dude should own, the first of many pairs of converse sneakers, cool clothes and he always threatened the purchase of Jack’s first motorbike. He would spend hours playing patiently with him, building houses out of duplo or driving the tractor.
And Jack adored his Uncle Andy and loved cuddling him in spite of the ‘scratchies’ he grew when he returned to the farm. It was a game as Andrew would rub his whiskers on Jack’s face and Jack would squirm and squeal with delight.
When he was working in Sydney and Melbourne Andrew hung out for new photos of Jack and his visits to the farm were highly anticipated by both Jack and Andrew. I know that Andrew’s move to the farm brought him so much happiness being closer to his family and the farm that he loved so much.
He embraced country life with enthusiasm that was typically Andrew. Taking up welding, making new friends and acquiring a gun to eradicate rabbits, foxes and feral cats. In the last few weeks of his life he helped family friends with their harvest. At Mudgeegong he drove the tractor, nagged Noel about climbing the silo and looking after himself and worked on any number of projects, including the coolest tractor letterbox you’ve ever seen, even if it did have only three wheels.
They say that children should never predecease their parents, what a tragedy it is. And whoever they are, they happen to be right. But neither should a child be deprived of a loving Uncle like Andrew. We will all miss him.
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