Ashley Robinson.
Ashley Robinson. Patrick Woods

Tugboat Tales: Big frog in a small pond

So I was writing this the night before my 61st birthday, contemplating a family-issue trip overseas the next day.

That was not an ideal way to spend it but as an old mate of mine says when I whinge about birthdays, "Well, it's better than the alternative.”

It does remind me of a few things, though. Firstly, for a bloke who doesn't like a fuss about birthdays, last year's milestone was celebrated with a surprise breakfast and I have to say the biggest surprise for me was that some people must actually like me, which was nice, and it was a morning that I will remember fondly forever.

As I ponder birthdays, the hint of a smile does come on the dial when I think of my dear old Mum who used to make me the frog-in-the-pond cake, which was a sponge cake with green jelly in the middle and a Freddo Frog nestled on top.

Every year, I looked forward to that and it started a lifelong relationship with chocolate frogs - not because, coincidently, the original creator of Freddo was Robertsons (spelt differently but close enough) but because I was just a little fat kid who loved chocolate and cake.

Presents spring to mind as well - like in the '60s when I reckon I dropped enough hints to the old man about wishing I had a dragster bike that when I actually got it, I had to pretend to be surprised.

It was purple with the streamers on the handle bars and I thought it was Christmas. Yes, very memorable and probably slightly effeminate.

That one stands out, as does a new surfboard after I was married that old mate organised and was a complete surprise. She got my boss at the Old Mooloolaba Hotel to summon me like I was in trouble (which was pretty normal) into the Powerhouse (old band room) and there they all were: my little family, my boss and my new board.

I must say, though, that 2018 hasn't been great because of some family drama and normally I would say the day was just another day, but there is a silver lining to this year and I suppose this birthday.

Through our current ordeal, it has made me realise a few things: how much I love my family and how lucky I am to have such a great circle of friends.

It has taken something bad to happen for me to understand how many good people our family is lucky enough to know.

The number of people who have contacted me offering assistance has been overwhelming, and while we really need to do this on our own, it is comforting to know that our support base is far bigger than I ever realised.

There have been some people who I will be eternally grateful to but also others who have come out of the woodwork that I never would have guessed would have us on their radar. That is quite humbling.

So my 61st birthday was pretty good with the gift of friendship. It's right up there with the dragster, surfboard and the frog in the pond, thank you.

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