DOUBTS are crippling and they creep into everything. From self-doubts, to doubts of external perceptions; doubts cripple progress and that was what happened to dad’s biography.
I had spent 18 months writing a biography the way I thought people wanted it written, because I doubted and was scared they wouldn’t like it the way I wanted to write it.
I doubted people would trust me with my intentions; I was too scared to write a biography about my own dad in the first-person, for example, because I thought people would think I was trying to make it about me.
I finished Part 1, which comprised of seven chapters and 57,000 words and that chapter incorporated several lessons that I suddenly found myself needing to learn from my dad.
He might have passed away, but he still had some words of wisdom for me and they centred around having a vision, a dream and never losing sight of it.
And so marked what I call the “F-ck it Moment”: the moment where I learnt that pleasing everyone was impossible and a stupid ideal to chase and the only way to write this was to forget all of that and trust myself to write the story I wanted to write from the very beginning, for the reasons I wanted to write it.
I hope people like it, but, ultimately, it doesn’t matter.
So, why am I sharing this now? Because I still want people to look forward to and like this book; dad had such a massive impact on the state’s sporting history, much of which I wasn’t even aware of until writing this.
However, I equally wanted to make it very clear what people can expect. This will not be a biography in its traditional sense. This will probably not be written like any biography you’ve read before. And you might hate that.
This will be what I want it to be and believe it should be: a biography about a dad, written by a son, for a daughter and grandaughter.
And so I share with you below the opening chapter from a book now titled “The Legend from Bruce Rock: The Life, Lessons and Yarns of your Grandad”. It’s the introduction, titled “Dear Charlotte”.
Thanks for your interest and I do hope you keep following this project.
Those two words were a hell of a lot easier to write than the ones that will now follow. And even as I write this sentence, a thousand thoughts are flying through my mind.
That’s because this book was not always titled as it is. And it didn’t always read the way it does. It was always dedicated to you, but it took an entirely different form and the fact that form has changed is thanks to two people. It was a form that had me attempting to tell the story of your grandad in a very objective way. That was the journalist in me, trying to write it as a normal biography.
But this isn’t a normal biography.
You will find throughout your life that there will be knockbacks and you will get knocked down. Your grandad will teach you that lesson within these pages and, as much as I hope I will always be your Superman, at some point you’ll also discover that your mum and dad are just regular people and they can get knocked down, too.
I got knocked down when writing this book. And it was the best thing that ever happened.
Well, not at the time it wasn’t. I had written seven chapters, totalling 57,000 words of a biography simply titled The Legend from Bruce Rock. I had written it thoroughly and there was an immense amount of research that had gone into it. Your mum and I had poured years of our lives into it. Yes, your mum helped write this book, too. Not physically, but through her actions and the time she gave that allowed me to write it and through the enormous emotional investment that she made.
A local publisher – small on a national landscape, but big for WA and also highly-respected – asked to read the manuscript. The publisher was on the top of the list of companies I had planned to approach when I was ready and the fact that they had actually made the effort and approached me consolidated their position on top of that list.
I was sold. They were not.
I could write, they said. And the amount of research and the thorough job that I had done was evident. But the story was also confused. The manuscript read like someone trying to write a biography objectionably, yet from a position of “journalist, son and participant in the story”. Your dad had been knocked down.
The life, lessons and yarns you will find in this book will teach you many things, some light-hearted and others serious, but if I – as your dad – may interject one lesson of my own before it’s your grandad’s turn, it’s that we are all guaranteed to be knocked down at some point and it is how we act at that moment that displays the type of person we are and determines the type of person we will become. At the start of this preface, I said the change in the direction of this book to its current state was thanks to two people. The publisher, specifically the editor of the publishing house, was the first, because once I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself, I saw they were correct. I made the decision to pick myself up, use the feedback and change.
The second person is you, Charlotte, because you helped me to see what to change it to.
Your dad wears a leather necklace that holds an aged copper rectangular plate, bounded by copper wire. It’s a reminder to adhere to the lesson that I had inscribed on the copper plate. The lesson is taken from the lyrics of a rapper that you may never know of and from a song you’ll probably never hear. The rapper is Eminem, the song is Talkin’ 2 Myself and the lyrics, or lessons, inscribed are: “Quit worryin’ about what they do and do Shady”.
In other words: Forget what others think and just be yourself.
It’s a poignant lesson for someone like your dad, because I have always worried about what other people think of me, which is why I wear that necklace as a constant reminder. But throughout this project – the most significant project of my life and a project throughout which I needed to heed that lesson more than any other – I forgot it. In my defence, I mainly forgot it because someone, when they were just learning to clutch at things, grabbed that necklace and snapped it off my neck.
Your uncle Mark – my brother – said to me when I announced I was planning to write this book: “Make sure you do it right, because there can only be one of these”. He had every right to say it and he was absolutely correct in saying it, but it sent me on a path I now look back on as the wrong one. It’s important to note, though, that he made no judgement on what path I should take and going down the wrong one was entirely my own fault, because I had spent three years researching and interviewing and one year writing a book that tried to be everything to everybody and ended up being very little to anyone.
Your grandad was such a well-respected man in many areas of life, but most significantly within the sporting industry. Your dad is not.
I’m not a well-known or well-respected man and, as a result, I was so focused on trying to produce something that people he knew within that industry would appreciate and respect. People and names such as Ric Charlesworth, Dennis Cometti, Kim Hughes and Justin Langer. And then there were my colleagues in the media industry; what would they think when the book was finally released? They all knew your grandad, Wally Foreman, and admired him. The irony is that one of those people, Dennis Cometti, said to me when I interviewed him: “People want to read a biography about a man, written by his son”.
I was so focused on those names that I let drift the one name that should have been at the forefront of my mind: yours, Charlotte Anne Foreman.
And the reason is simple: your grandad would have loved you so much. More than anything in the world. Even sport. Had he had the opportunity to sit with you and tell you a story while you balanced on his knee, a knee that for once in his life wouldn’t have been jigging up-and-down at a million miles an hour, you would have been the only thing that existed to him in the world at that moment. You would have been the only two people. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the Western Australian Institute of Sport and everything before, in between and after, would have meant nothing at that moment. It would have been just you and him.
Of course, though, that was because your grandad was a man with a heart of gold and that was what made him so well-respected to so many people, be they well-known names such as those I mentioned, or people he had never met in person and who had simply enjoyed listening to him on the radio. He never let profile bother him and he respected people and took them as they came, regardless of where they came from or who they were. He had a very clear understanding of right and wrong and fought with every bit of his essence for the former, no matter who those battles were against or how he may have looked throughout them.
He was not perfect, but most of the 3000 people who attended his memorial service after he passed away would probably say that he was pretty damned close.
Had you had the opportunity to sit on his knee, listening to him talking in what would have been that uplifting tone that comes naturally to anyone when they speak with the beaming smile he would have worn, he would have told you yarns to make you laugh and tales that would have taught you lessons and it’s important for you to know the life that those stories came from.
So, I say thank you, Charlotte, because from this moment, there is no more confusion. This book, this biography of your grandad, is written for you. Sure, it’s not for your eyes only and I sincerely hope that others enjoy reading it and learning about a very special man, but, ultimately, it is written for you.
However, with that comes some responsibilities for you.
You would have been the first grandchild of Wally Foreman, but your mum and I hope to give you a brother or sister at some stage and, undoubtedly, your uncle Mark would hope to give you some cousins. As the first grandchild, this book might be written for you, but it will also belong to them and it will be your responsibility to introduce them to a man they also will never meet in person. My hope is that is not a burden for you, but a gift that you feel privileged to give.
My thanks to you goes deeper than that, because you’ve also given your dad – me – a gift that you never knew you gave. I didn’t have the strongest relationship with your grandad when I was growing up, because our interests were very different. We loved each other, but we clashed and argued a lot. Especially when I was a teenager, who thought he knew better. I will forever be thankful that my relationship with your grandad began to mend in the months leading up to his passing, but we had only just begun to get to know each other.
As a result of writing this book for you, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know my dad in ways I probably never would have if he was still around today. You and I share a loss that is immense, but we also share this journey in getting to know your grandad. That’s a gift of such significance that I could never explain and all I can say is thank you, again.
I should probably explain to you how this project began, because it began at a time when you were just a thought and not the driving force for it.
I had conducted a guest lecture to journalism students at a university in about 2011 and was approached by one of the attendees after. He said that your grandad was the reason he was taking that course. They were kind words, but they also made me realise that there would be a generation of West Australians that at some stage no longer recognised the name, Wally Foreman. I made a public comment to that effect, which was met with a reply from another good man, the editor of The West Australian Brett McCarthy: “You should write his biography”.
And so began my stumble along an unknown path with fractured purpose until the moment you were born, three years later. Although, as I mentioned, while the purpose became clear, even then there were stumbles. See: only human.
There’s a couple of technical points I need to mention before you start reading: being written for you, I’ve referred to your grandad as just that, “your grandad”, throughout. However, he was also my dad and I was the one doing the interviews. So, you’ll come across quotes from people that say, “your dad” or “your father”. Don’t get confused; they’re the same person and still your grandad. I just don’t like changing quotes.
There’s also some bad examples made that will be contrary to what your mum and I have taught you, such as swearing and drink-driving. I’m going to assume you’ll first pick up this book when you’re around 15-years-old, in 12 or so years, so you’ll understand that those incidents are mentioned and happened in a particular context and time. I trust that you are intelligent enough to understand the difference between right and wrong.
So, where should we start? Well, considering you never met your grandad, we should probably start from the start and, for your grandad, the start was the Western Australian wheatbelt.
He was born in Kalgoorlie, but grew up in a town named Bruce Rock. It was a place that forever held his heart and one that you have actually visited. You were barely three months old and you joined your mum and me as I needed to interview two of your grandad’s childhood friends, Ray Williams and Bryan Kilminster. We joined them for dinner that night at the local club and you had your photo taken with them. It was a touching moment at the time – they were meeting the first grandchild of one of their closest mates, who never got to meet you himself – but it is now an even more significant memory.
Bryan passed away before this book was released, but that night you helped to paste a big smile all over his face. It was a smile that resembled the one your grandad would have beamed whenever he held you and that would have been beaming down from above at that moment.
He would have beamed, because you would have filled him with the same sense of beauty and nostalgia, wholeness and peace that made him love the way he did that town of Bruce Rock and the childhood he spent there. It would have been the same sense that made him escape to the country at every opportunity and inhale deeply the clean, unspoilt air, with eyes closed and listening to nothing but the whisper of the wind.
Bruce Rock and the country had the unique ability to bring calm to a life you will learn was very busy.
So, Charlotte: close your eyes, deep breath and listen to the whispers.
It’s time to meet your grandad.
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