Jano’s wild years

Jane, as the eldest of the 6, was one of the Ryan clan’s more responsible siblings – responsible for her siblings whereabouts and behaviours. Jane was instructed by her parents to ‘behave like a responsible 2 year old’. Jane took this role VERY seriously, and to an extent she still does.

(Behave a bit like a two year old with varying levels of responsibility that is)

Mum and Dad had 6 kids in the 10 years from 1973 to 1983. You can kind of imagine how busy they were. I prefer to imagine other things and say “LA LA LA” with my fingers in my ears.

The net result though was that where our Mum Helen was busy with the younger rat bags, it was Jane’s word that you ignored at your own risk. Rough justice ruled, hard but fair.

The old catholic family guilt ran strong – Jane quickly became a ‘family-hold -back” specialist. In mixed social company it was left to Jane, or so she reckoned, to ration the Ryans (mostly the Ryan boys) to their well behaved quota of chips and lollies. As the glutton pack leaders, Sean and I were often told to keep ourselves nice around bowls of chips.

We ignored orders where we thought we could get away with it … thing is, in a family of chip-guts-sea gulls, there was always someone watching the chip bowl.

My first memories of Jane are at Campbell st, our house in Heathmont.

Jane was the leader, and an important chronicler of the games of imagination that included hours of dress ups, imaginary footballs, pretend lemonade stalls, and endless handicap racing.  I remember being led into games of which I had little understanding, where gum nuts were re-imagined into marshmallows…. I was always a bit Emperors new clothes on this game. Originally I thought the fault must be mine, MY imagination that was too weak. And even twisting the salvadore dali melted imagination dial to hallucinogenic … those marshmallow gum nuts still tasted like shit.

Jane’s chronicler abilities, to record and communicate events and interactions, stem from her attempts at a young age to communicate her version of the world. Her first literary attempts resulted in a ‘SOMEWHAT’ autobiographical novella based on a young girl who climbed Mt. Everest. Handlily, Jane also documented the dangers of the raging forest fire that sprang up on the lower stages of the tricky descent. Her account tells how she was able to subdue the blaze single handed by wetting her hanky in a nearby stream. Interestingly this emergency services response method seems to be plagiarised from our very own Nana’s playbook to stickdown her grandchildren’s unruly hair.

Through her childhood, encouraged by her primary school teacher mother, Jane diligently recorded various big events of her life in handmade books, such as when Huwie wet the bed, the day Brig forgot to wear undies to school. Janes’ book documenting the family camping trip ‘Round Australia’ in particular is filled with observational insights and unintended honesties: these include pure unadulterated delight at eating spaghetti for tea, the finding of excellent playgrounds inhabited by friends with BBQs on the sizzle. That one time in Ararat when she realistically described Huw committing diarrhoea in the bath. And camping trip discussions between mum and dad debating how bad a day had to be before you could open the Bad Day Box. This discussion was held on Day 1 of the trip.

But there were grand moments too such as winning the netball grand final trophy for Our Lady’s of Perpetual Succour, or being selected for the school team to play interstate and shaking the hand of Paul Salmon (a contemporary footballer who had hands that were as larger than life as was his mullet hair cut). 
As Jane’s life experiences grew, she turned her steely gaze on the bigger subjects of life.  It was the much maligned Richard the Third which resulted in her Year 8 expose into the outrageous Shakespearian betrayal of the truth. This provided an early demonstration of Jane’s ability to stand in the face of seemingly intense political pressure, apply her courage and persistence, to not only suffer those slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes but also to take up arms against a sea of troubles. 

She also took the popular ABC radio commentators The Coodabeen Champions to task over their clear neglect of netball reporting. As a result they cadeted Jane as the Coodabeens cub reporter for the 1987 Netball World Cup. 

Jane took up the flute briefly. It happened to coincide with what is now know in the family infamously as the Mallacoota ‘Flutey Beatles Blues’ holiday. Things were to turn ugly very quickly: Jane using said instrument as a weapon … both musically and literally … the Beatles, and Brigi’s nose, have never been the same.

Her ability to turn to the pipe or whistle with which to pump out a religious ditty or accentuate the woefulness of any given tune is not to be underestimated.  Likewise Jane’s ability to sing all the AFL football theme songs back to back is was a special strategy of walking through one’s pain on a hiking trail.

Jane was often the first in our family. First of the Ryan siblings that would encourage Dad to watch Countdown on Sunday nights. The rest of the siblings (all 5 of us would instead vote as a block for the cartoons). It seems that we were outvoted. Such is democracy in a large family. Useful when convenient.

Jane was the first of the clan to depart Australian shores (on a year 10 trip to the Phillipines)

Jano set a certain tone of later Ryan international jetsetting style.  Sure, leaving packing to the last minute is a common curse. Jane’s casualness extends to other travel arrangements as well.  Such as picking up her passport and VISA from the Chinese visa processing centre ON WAY to the airport, Having her Tehran flight confirmed on the actual day of travel. Add to this an old classic of arriving in the UK with no money and the promise of a credit card in the post.  Jane’s penchant for losing keys and wallets is right up there with the best that Ryan’s have to offer. The stakes are high given recent Ryan trips include lost luggage, lost wallets and phones and my personal favourite last minute travel arrangements. I have to own here that my recent attempt at Ryan casualness was having my business visa approved only days before I needed to travel). I read on a billboard advert recently some fop selling overpriced watches that ‘elegance is an attitude’. Casualness, too, is an attitude.

Jane was the first of the siblings to leave home..

As her secondary school days came to close Jane increasingly recognised that she would need to be financially self sufficient. She took on an after school job: cleaning the toilets at the school at which she was attending. In addition to a strong stomach this demonstrated her determination to succeed. The rest of siblings thought this was an admirable use of time and effort (killing two birds with one stone). Our sister Clare was the only one with the sense to see that although this job might have been convenient, it might also have provided a reason as to why we had such difficulty garnering much social capital with our respective peer groups.

Still the meagre sum that she scraped together slaving away in the concrete cubicles of the playground jungle at the end of Year 12 was thought to be just enough to survive at around the poverty line. So she spent half of this sock full of cash on a state of the art sound system (with double tape deck). This purchase put a twinkle in her father’s eye and a tear in her mother’s. (Which is kinda funny as most of the other large family investment decisions have mostly been the reworked the other way around!)

And to escape the backwaters of Shepparton she chose that other extreme: edgy, wild, wonderful: Adelaide.

Jane’s Sunday evening tradition of setting aside time to communicate with those friends whose geographical coordinates are divergent from her own. Let time and space not separate one from a bossom friend. Indeed. both a skill and a discipline Jane continues to refine her ability; to continue to make meaningful conversation with those both near and far. Many friends I am sure can attest to Jane’s ability to send letters of the sort that give you a far too short insight into Jane’s ways and ways of thinking.

From that centre of all that is thriving, jumping and move busting (i.e. Adelaide) Jano reported on new and interesting music to dispatch to the nest of unrest. Where it would be form a centre core of other reconstructed mixed tapes, gifted or borrowed-stolen (a term of unauthorized borrowing that O so sincere form of flattery that all good musical magpies engage in)

Speaking on adversity, after her Adelaide days she returned to Shepparton for work. Her early work days included my favourite story about work Jane: ‘Wacka the Bunyip’ – Jane tells some very hairy tales of drowning in the suit on 40 degree days … and the day the oxygen pump failed and having to rip the bunyip head off in front of hundreds of stunned and traumatised primary school students. Jane is still being able to do the jump up and down and bunyip clap dance with real feeling and passion.
In the dancing zone Jane

As one of the best things in that continues in our household- we all have our turn at the Ryan turntable: to be influencer and influenced.

Jane loves her music. And given the right tunes will take to the dance floor to attest this fact. For instance she would readily dance both her legs off for Stevie Wonders’ 1972 hit ‘Superstitious’. Probably give up whatever other extremities that life has offered her as well. We all have songs that get us to a zone where external influences such as food, drink, sleep and social niceties fade from importance. I recall an 80’s themed house party (picture Jane dressed to kill in an amazing stone wash denim overalls number) needing two tight slaps to engage and converse with guests after going into a ‘Superstitious’ dance trance … it had begun so innocently, with Jane leading a Michael Jackson ‘beat it’ dance troupe … culminating (some hours later) in the ‘Superstition’ super dance off.

Jane enjoys robust ideas, discussions, and challenges. She is continually seeking new ways to challenge her resilience in the face of adversity, opportunities that need grabbing, dreams that require articulation.

Jane is very prepared to own, and where ready, to challenge these adversities, and there have been any number of these injustices that she has seen off with the garden hose … (whether they be the white-ish freckly skin from her Irish forebears, her asthma, her propensity to blow out calves at the slightest hint of sporting finals, sporting officialdom demonstrating their lack of respect for talent, a puffy, wonky knee requiring surgery etc. None of these things have slowed her determination to achieve.

Her work in public policy and collaborative management of land and water resources has challenged and supported Jane. Sport also plays a key role: particularly exemplar is
Jane’s predilection towards ecstatically achieved mental states through physical and mental exertion.

In her major sport interests (Netball and rowing) it is both the physical and the tactical that are of the highest interests. These activities provide a perfect balance of outward/inward for Jane. In this way consciousness is centred on an experiential sense of self, rather than what we would normally refer to as social self-consciousness: where we are conscious of our appearance or manner. The challenge is not to ‘excessively’ see one’s self from the outside as others would see, rather to regard self-consciousness as seeing the self from the inside. This is very handy as the uniforms for netball (the hotdog coloured team a personal favourite), and the ever present zoot suits worn for rowing are shocking if seen from the outside.

Jane is a keen competitor. Even non-competitive sports such as the hiking trips can be seen as admirable opportunities for Jane to succeed, to push herself (despite whatever injury she tends to be carrying) to test her own limits of capability.

These trips are about the physical challenge and overcoming of adversity and the community building that goes with it.

Jane frequently espouses anti-populist sensibilities. These are rooted in a distrust of the mainstream, powered as it so frequently is by populist peer conformity and mindless and paid professional propaganda. Jane has a history of social dissent, often discrediting select cultural artifacts that are liked by many. To be popular one must be a mediocrity, says Oscar Wilde. Jane agrees. Hers has been a view from outside, disapproving of mass approval.

Jane rankles at many world realities. What Camus’ calls the Absurd ‘… that divorce between the mind that desires and the world that disappoints…’ spurs Jane to efforts toward social mutation and a slice of professional imperative for areas where she thinks she can make a difference, and where she can’t the ridiculous, here is her biting sarcastic humour and cheekiness directed at taking the concepts to their extremes or gentle biting ridicule to diminish the earnest import

Her work is an important part of her perception of identity, of being on the right side of sustainable change. It excites her. An impassioned topic is anything to do with the interaction of community, individual and the physical world with all the flow on sensitivities. I’ve thought at times that the realities of the diversity and strength of competing opinions she attempts to manage and corral (like head strong cattle not wanting to have their flesh pressed with the white hot steel) would be for others, like myself, a de-motivator. Can these things be brought together for long enough to get the right message out? Can it be done?

Jane provides one with a model of Sisyphus -like rebellion, defined as the ‘certainty of a crushing fate, without the resignation that ought to accompany it’. Her lived social philosophies keep her head up. Some of which she borrows from her elders (for example her grand motivator grandmother Valda Cahir provides Jane with her model to ‘love those that are hard to love’ mantra), her parents and family and others from friends and her lived experience.

And it is in celebration of these ties that Jane has invited us all here tonight. To that effect this evening is a room filled with celebration of Jane’s 40 years, and the ties that bind through your relationship with her over these years. I thank Jane for identifying this opportunity to bring us all together. Life is worth living and we look forward to sharing it with Jane and each other in the years and adventures still to come.


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