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I sometimes quote the saying that ‘you can’t make old friends’. It’s a way of encouraging myself and others to keep up with long time friendships. After all it can take years, even decades, for a new person in your life to feel like an old pal.

But last summer I met someone who instantly felt like an old mate. I was at the ‘Fire in the Mountain’ festival near Aberystwyth when I first met Ron Seith and his partner Suzy. We immediately struck up an easy rapport. He was from South Australia on a tour of Britain visiting family and friends. His sunburned Aussie good-natured practicality warmed me to him at once. When I found Ron lived in the Adelaide Hills I felt closer still. I’ve lived in and loved the Adelaide Hills and in another life might have settled there. It’s 38 years since I moved back to the UK and I’ve still got friends there. Ron had worked mostly as an engineer but had come of age in the hippy heydays and sported long hair and a beard. When we discovered we were both born in the same year we had a kind of generational kinship.

His Aussie ease and likeability, our Antipodean comradeship, the Adelaide Hills, having lived through the same era, our shared hippy tendency, his passion for low impact living out in the Bush… All this and more made us firm friends from the start. So I invited Ron and Suzy to visit Cae Mabon after the festival, which they did. They were simultaneously amazed and at home.

Imagine my shock and grief when I discovered, just before Christmas, that Ron had died defending his home from a bushfire in the Adelaide Hills. His family couldn’t believe it. He was always very capable when dealing with practical emergencies. Hundreds gathered for his funeral. He was well loved by all who knew him. As someone said on the day: ‘Ron’s death epitomised how he lived his life. He tackled everything fearlessly and with vigour. He had a wonderful and rich life living on the edge...’

After the bushfire: a father lost, a home destroyed and a plea for the future

Ron’s death was clearly a bushfire casualty. As you know there were many – people, animals, homes and landscapes – during the recent worst ever spate of extreme bushfires in Australia. Along with worldwide storms, floods, fires and unseasonably mild winters it must be a consequence of climate change brought about, in part, by carbon emissions. Yet the Australian government prefers to turn the other way and keep on burning coal.


A New Old Friend Boldly Chucked Out!

Hence this bold action by another ‘new old friend’ of Cae Mabon, Stephen Taberner. He is the Kiwi/Aussie choirmaster (or Spookmeister) of the Spooky Men’s Chorale and was at Cae Mabon teaching a songwriting course last autumn. Stephen was recently ejected from Parliament House in Canberra for standing up in the visitors’ gallery during question time and, in a clear, loud voice, saying: ‘A question without notice! Prime Minister, when will you declare a Climate Emergency? What will it take for you to act?’

Bravo Stephen! I’m sure Ron Seith would be cheering you on.

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