There doesn’t seem to be a time in my memory when I didn’t know Jo. I can’t remember when we first met. It was probably at Frank Trayners over a communal bottle of scotch or flagon of claret and a joint. We became close friends through our association with Margaret Lassica’s Modern Dance Ensemble in the 70,s. She was very much a fixture keen on the lots of thin pretty girls there and of course Margaret and her wonderful mind. I was there hanging lights and Jo was hanging around with Silvia. She got interested in theatre tech and we became partners in crime. Our social orbits were different she was very much the St Kilda scene and I was Carlton, then Fitzroy and Collingwood. We gave each other jobs in the biz. She moved more into management while I tended to make and hang up things.
We were both driven. We both had things to prove to ourselves and the rest of the world.
Later she moved to Preston and I moved to Coburg then ‘Coota. She came and worked with me on the Mallacoota Festivals trying to realize Woodie’s dreams. She bought land here and then built her shack that grew and grew and finally moved here. She had almost finished it when she died. She loved the building of it. Seeing her ideas take shape around her was very bright pleasure for her. For some reason she loved having tradesmen around and they just about all became her friends
Jo was not an easy or comfortable close friend. We were always striking sparks. She was a great one for getting hold of the wrong end of the stick and beating you with it. Sometimes I thought she didn’t like me at all.
Jo was fiercely loyal. When the chips were down she was always there to knock you back into shape with her acerbic common sense. She applied her common sense to her friends lives much more successfully than to her own.
She collected stray cats and people the latter always seemed to let her down. When she gave her heart it was total. If she thought you had let her down – run for cover. Her friends found this confusing, as she could never seem to articulate her feelings about what exactly you had done.
Over the fortyish years I have known Jo we have both changed a great deal and stayed the same.
We both loved border collies from childhood. Once we both often viewed the dawn through the bottom of a glass. Our personal lives have been fraught and weird. In many ways Jo and I have been more like family than friends. We could drift in and out of each other’s lives, picking up where we has left off, sharing, feuding and hanging out. After I moved to ‘Coota and before she did, I often stayed at her place in Preston. I would cook curry. I remember one night coming back from a gig at Dance House and turning on the TV and seeing the direct feed from NY with the smoking ruins of The World Trade Centre and thinking it was B grade disaster movie.
I remember Jo and Gem and the love. I remember the inexplicable cats. I remember how much she cared and understood about art. I remember her innate bullshit detector that worked on everything but lovers. I remember the often thwarted idealism that refused to give up. Under life’s relentless impositions there was still the sixties dream – that maybe we could make the world a better place. A hope that sometimes made her impatient and angry with the world.
I do not make close friends easily, my world is a lot colder and lonelier place without Jo in it.