What I Learned and What I Knew about my Nana

This is the eulogy I delivered at the funeral of Molly O’Brien, my Nana, on October 10, 2019.

I’m standing in front of you on behalf of Nana’s daughter Meg, my mum, and her son Stephen, my uncle, and my sister Rebecca.

The whole family is here to remember Nana’s passing, and it’s wonderful to see so many of you all here to remember her with them. But that’s no surprise: Nana had so many friends and was so close to her family. I’ve been living overseas for the past 30 years, but I still recognize so many people that were part of her life, including Auntie Helen who will be speaking after me.

I was chatting with Helen the other day and she said that one of the things about funerals is that it’s the time when you really learn about someone. And it’s true. Over the past few days I’ve been talking with people who knew Nana and sharing stories about her. I got details on some some things I already knew about her, and I learned some new things as well. And today, I wanted to spend a few minutes sharing them with you.

I learned a lot about Nana’s early life. I’d always thought she was born in Melbourne but in fact she was born here in Adelaide, in Hackney, and only moved to Melbourne at the age of 21 after her discharge from the Royal Australian Air Force after the war. That’s where she met her lifelong friend Coral, and two young fellas Stan and Ted. From what I could gather she had a fine old time in Melbourne doing things like going to parties with the likes of Squizzy Taylor. In 1959 she moved back to Adelaide, with husband Ted, and my 8-year-old Mum and 1-year-old Stephen tow. She moved back to take care of her own mother, who she looked after for more than a decade.

This was all before I was born — for most of my life, Nana was synonymous with Price, the fishing town on the Yorke Peninsula, where she moved to in 1973 after the death of Nana Cosgrove. She remained there through the passing of her husband, my grandfather Ted in 1979, until she moved back to Adelaide to stay with Mum in 2002.

In learning all of this, I also discovered just how humble she was. She was never shy, but she was always reluctant to talk herself up. I never knew until this week, for example, that she received medals for her time in the RAF. “They’re just participation trophies”, Stephen told me she said about them. She achieved so much in her life, and helped so many people, but was always reticent to give herself credit.

Because Nana was always there for you, and Nana never judged. It didn’t matter what your problem was, or what you’d done, she was always there to listen, and support, and even provide refuge if that’s what you needed. I’ve heard so many stories in the last few days from people that Nana had helped in times of need — myself included. I remember when I came home from England one time, and showed her a photo of my first boyfriend. This was news to her, but she was completely unflappable. The first thing she said was, “He looks nice. And I hope he’s nice to you”.

I always knew Nana was welcoming, but I don’t think I really knew how many people thought of her house in Price as a second home, the way I did. If you wanted to come over, and bring a friend, or two, or a dozen, she’d make up a bed for you and make you dinner or cook the fish or crab or rabbits or the quail that Stephen had caught. (Her rabbit stew in white sauce and parsley was my favourite.) Sometimes there’s be so many campers and tents set up in the back yard of her place in Price that you could barely see the lawn.

Even after she left Price and moved back in with Mum, she kept up her ways. She was always happy to make dinner, or do the ironing, until the very last years of her life. Rebecca told me she still wears her rugby shorts with pleats, because that’s the way Nana did it.

Nana loved being with people, and she loved to have fun. And as I was going through a box of photos of Nana with Mum the other day I also learned something new: she loved dressing up. The photos of Nana as a pastor, or as a circus clown, or as a hippy, or as Barry Humphries or in one particularly notorious episode, as a lady of the night were one thing. But all the stories that went with the photos, well, those were legendary … but if you weren’t there, you’ll have to ask for the details.

Nana loved adventure, too, even in her later life. There’s the time she went four-wheel driving in the Corner Country. She went parasailing in Bali. She went fishing on the Daly River and caught the biggest barramundi two years running. One of Mum’s favourite memories is Nana piloting this catamaran across the Great Barrier Reef. A few years ago a simple cruise turned into her sweet-talking the captain into letting her drive with this enormous grin on her face — and that’s my favourite photo of her.

I always knew that Nana was whip-smart. She could do the nine-letter word every time, could bang out the Sunday crossword in under an hour, and was always the champion at Scrabble and Trivial pursuit. Stephen told me Nana was a master of the racing form, sitting around the kitchen table with a transistor radio and offering 20-cent bets on the horses. I did however learn that the reason she always beat me at crib was because she was expert at moving both pegs at once. And she kept that sharpness right up until the end.

But I think the most important think I learned over the last few days, is that I learned many of these things from her (and if not Nana then from my Mum … who also learned them from Nana). I’ve been very fortunate in my life, and I’m where I am today because of what I learned about courage, about humility, about cunning, about living life to the fullest, and most of all, about compassion. And I’m sure many of you learned those same things from her as well.

Thank you all so much for coming here today: it means so much to me, and to the family. And I’m sure if Nana were still here with us today, she’d be eager to have a chat, have a drink, have a laugh, and enjoy this moment with you all. That’s how I’ll remember her. Rest In Peace, Nana.

Maureen (Molly) O’Brien. Wife to Ted; Mother to Margaret and Stephen. April 20, 1925 – September 29, 2019.

Dusting off the mothballs

It’s spring, and it feels so good to be throwing the windows open and letting in the fresh air! Well, fresh until the EPA is dismantled. While we were away, the world changed pretty dramatically. It’s great to have our platform back to air our frustrations and anger, but for today, I’m just going enjoy the fact that our dear nonfamous.com is back.

Also, it’s Jay’s birthday, and that makes me happy. I’ve know this sweet, generous, fascinating character for over 20 years, and I’m so grateful to have him and his wonderful family in my life. I love you, sweetie!

nonfamous is back!

So, it’s been quite a while since anything was new here. Post-GWB, there just didn’t seem to be quite the urgency. And the advent of Facebook (yes, this site started before Facebook) introduced new avenues for sharing with friends and family.

After a while, tumbleweeds set in, in the form of spam commenters and bitrot. Eventually, WordPress strained under the attempts of nefarious ne’er-do-wells, and the ISP moved it into maintenance mode to protect the server. After a while even the database failed and the site became barren, empty.

But now it’s a new era. Blogging feels relevant again, and even with the ephemeral sharing of the Twitters and the Facebooks a place to capture one’s thoughts for today and the future seems like what we need. So many many thanks to April for coming to the rescue by upgrading WordPress to a faster, responsive, and more secure version, and for recovering a dusty old backup we found on an old Mac Mini to restore the old content.

And most of all, today is Jay’s birthday. Happy Birthday, love! I hope the resurrection of nonfamous.com brings you much joy and a place to celebrate … or vent, as needs dictate!

Much love,

In defense of trolls?

Not me. I think they’re a notch below gnomes, and most of you know how I feel about gnomes.

But WaPo has an interesting take on why anonymous posting on blogs might make sense:

I believe that it is useful to be reminded bluntly that the dark forces are out there and that it is too easy to forget that truth by imposing rules that obscure it…Too many of us like to think that we have made great progress in human relations and that little remains to be done. Unmoderated comments provide an antidote to such ridiculous conclusions.

Surely that was quite evident with the vitriol posted by anonymous commenters posting unverifyable rants against Culinary Communion and its owners.

I’m not sure I agree with the defense of giving the trolls a public forum, though. I’d actually prefer they just quietly sit in their dirty little hovels keeping their lousiness to themselves. But then again, if Glenn Beck gets a TV show, maybe a nasty twerp like “tm” desserves a voice.

But not here.

The last bacon sale

It really is amazing bacon. You’ll be happy if you get some.

In Gabe’s own words…

Hi Everybody,
So the great news: KCHD is fully approved our bacon. Period. 100% legal. No exceptions. If any haters out there would like to call Larry Smith to verify this: 206-218-9021. YAY!!!!!!!!

The bad news: Because of all of the stairwell drama, we have lost our lease and will be for sure out of the building by the end of the month. Lunch Counter is closed. Swinery will be closed, for at least a while (while we look for a new home, which may or may not be in this state).

The Sale: We have about 24 days to make and sell some bacon. I would love to fill your homes and senses with the wonderful smells of our bacon frying. Bacon is $12/# and the same great All Natural, Hormone Free Berkshire Bacon (Noelani’s Favorite). While we are at it, we have some fresh sausages, some bacon burgers, and probably THE BACON EXPLOSION. Sausage is: $8/#, Bacon Burger Patties: $12/#, Bacon Explosions: $20 ea.

Pre Orders Start Now, email me at sales@swinerymeats.com; We will be open 9am-5pm, April 19th – April 24th for pick up.

Please forward this on to EVERYBODY and we have special BACON PIMP shirts for anyone who organizes/buys 50# or more. Also T-Shirts are half price with a purchase of 5# or more. Spread the word. Not a secret anymore.

Culinary Communion is closed, but the miserable internet trolls live on…

And it sucks. CC was my second home. In the last four years, I’ve spent so much time learning to be a good cook there. I have so many friends because of CC and Gypsy. And it sucks that those are done.

What sucks more are the couple of people who are adding insult to injury here, though, by posting anonymously on the local blogs, nasty things about my friends and an institution they seem to have a grudge against. My guess is that most of them are from one or two people, and I can guess who they are, and they’re trying to make it look like there are a lot of them. Yesterday it was really upsetting me. Today, I realized that they are worthless pieces of shit, and I am not going to worry about them. I’m not going to bother reading the other blogs today, because it doesn’t matter what they say. Assholes are assholes, and you can only get so much out of calling them out on what they are.

One of them decided to come find me on this blog, today, and posted some random thing about me threatening him (uh, right, here’s what I posted about him:

anonymous trolls who post nasty and unsubstantiated attacks on people are probably the worst thing about the blogosphere.

CC was a great home for many of us. You apparently never bothered to become a part of that, which is certainly not our loss. But gloating over someone else’s misfortune is reprehensible.

Sound threatening? It made me realize that this person is just unhinged and out of touch with reality.

Anyway, this blog is my home, and anonymous and nasty comments will be deleted. I don’t have the stomach for these jerks that Jonathan Kauffman and Rebekeh Denn apparently do.


Said crazy apparently is reading my facebook posts and thinks that i am threatening him and have a vendetta against him, even though I’ve no idea who he is. Oh the wackjobs online.