Maurice and Margaret Brown, late 1970
I met Margaret in 1969. She was a maths teacher then, and Julian had been saying, "Wait till you meet my mother: she eats ground glass", so I was pretty terrified. She asked me what I proposed to call her, stating her hope that it wouldn't be "The Old Cheese", which she claimed was her sons' name for her. We settled for first names.
The studio portrait above was given to all us children on the eve of the Browns' 1971 trip across Asia in their Ford-based motorhome, Gloria. We were told it was a "silk purse" job, in case we never saw them again.
Despite so much evidence of humour, I went on being pretty scared of Margaret for some years - even after we weren't related any more. Gradually I realised there was no need. Margaret continued to treat Helen and me as family, with a fairness and matter-of-factness that I valued.
She was a formidable woman with accomplishments in all directions, a forthright manner, and a talent for enjoying life. It was always interesting spending time with her. When Helen moved to Melbourne in 2000, Margaret put her up till she found a flat, gave her dinner once a week, and gave me the guest wing whenever I visited. Helen and Margaret got on extremely well, assisted, in my opinion, by a certain amount of looking and thinking alike.
The last time Helen and I saw Margaret when she was still on her feet was after Christmas 2007, down at Anglesea. She greeted us with pleasure, but went to bed very early. She seemed frail. The next time, February 2008, she was in the nursing home, and no longer herself. She remembered Helen, though.
We miss her.
It's thanks to her (and to a generous decision of Julian's) that Helen has been able to buy the land in Tasmania where she and Chloe will live one day.