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He terrified people when he crossed their path. His bulk, power and temper were so intimidating, so legendary, employees would quail in his presence. But not me.
For some reason - probably because I was a nobody in the Australian Consolidated Press hierachy - my encounters with Kerry Packer were always pleasant and occasionally amusing.
There was the time he entered a crowded lift, which fell instantly silent. "That killed the conversation, didn't it?" he chuckled with a nod in my direction. I smiled and he beamed back at me, with a knowing roll of the eye.
Another time, also in the lift, he noticed my bandaged hand. "Take care of that, won't you?" he smiled warmly as he exited.
That's not to say KP didn't scar me in other ways.
This time of year, I'm reminded of one act of generosity - the provision of Christmas hampers to staff - which decades later keeps me awake at night.
I suffer from turkey trauma, and it's all down to the late Kerry Francis Bullimore Packer.
Until that first Christmas hamper almost 35 years ago, I'd never prepared a Christmas meal, let alone attempted to roast a turkey. The sad fact was I could never afford to.
But the two styrofoam boxes collected from the ACP loading dock contained everything for a lavish feast and it fell to me - whose culinary skills back then ran to cheese-on-toast - to assemble it.
I'll never forget the first attempt. The size of the bird was intimidating. The warnings from amused and slightly cruel colleagues - that the worst thing imaginable on Christmas Day was to serve a dry turkey - had me in a sweat.
Under the watchful eyes of Ted the German shepherd and Snog, the insistent black-and-white cat with the off-centre Hitler moustache, I went to work on Christmas morning.
Instructions were followed to the letter. The stuffing was prepared and placed in the bird, the legs were wrapped in foil, calculations made for cooking time and into the oven it went. For the next three hours, I paced, basted, paced some more, basted some more, settled the nerves with a steady flow of alcohol and repeatedly warned the guests not to have great expectations.
And when the moment of truth arrived, the turkey was ... perfect.
So perfect, it's become a tradition. Long after leaving Packer's employ and on my own dime, I've subjected myself to turkey trauma almost every Christmas since. The only time I've not repeated the ritual is when I've been overseas on the big day.
The fear has stayed, however. It manifests itself about a month out.
We have to buy the turkey, which means a freezer audit and the horror as we uncover what appears to be a coelacanth preserved in the ice but is in fact a flathead caught last summer.
Bird secured, the possibility of a blackout raises its head, usually as a storm rolls over at 3am. Lying awake, fingers and toes crossed that Thor doesn't whack the local substation, the nagging thought arrives. "What if this is the year I fail at the perfect turkey?"
Three days out, and robbed of sleep again, this time remembering not to forget to defrost the damn thing.
The big day arrives and the whole ritual gets under way again. The German shepherd and cat have long passed but the border collie is there - a master counter insurgent who must be watched at all times lest he pinch something. There's pacing and basting but these days no alcohol to settle the nerves.
The moment of truth arrives. And once again - phew! - it's not dry.
After the meal, before lapsing into the inevitable turkey-induced narcolepsy, I'll think of Kerry Packer and his Christmas hampers and how there's a whole year before I have to confront the fear again.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Have you developed a Christmas feast ritual? Do you get nervous as the big day approaches? Do you plan ahead well ahead or fly by the seat of your pants? Any disasters along the way (we're all friends here so your confession is safe with us)? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- The race to select a new Liberal senator is on the final stretch after Opposition Leader Peter Dutton endorsed former NSW treasurer Andrew Constance. But the contest for the vacant NSW Senate spot created by the retirement of former minister Marise Payne remains open, as contenders try to cultivate the support of rank-and-file members.
- More than one in five adults have been abused or physically assaulted by their partner, including a quarter of all women, and almost 3 million were abused in their childhood, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
- This Christmas, one in three Australian adults is forecast to go into debt. The cost-of-living crisis is leaving more people in financial stress as they head into the festive season. More than 12.8 million adults or 62 per cent are ending their year worried about their finances compared to about 50 per cent last year, according to research for The Salvation Army.
THEY SAID IT: "Don't make a big to-do about the turkey; brine it, put it in the oven, and don't think about it again." - Ruth Reichl
YOU SAID IT: It's no picnic being a Boomer when every day you're confronted with disdain, envy and hostility by a generation convinced you're hanging around way too long.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you, John," writes Maggie. "Wipe out us Boomers now, and our communities would fall apart. Our parents may have had a tougher time, what with two world wars, the Depression, etc, but we did our bit for the world too. These kids would not recognise the world that we faced at their age."
Ian writes: "I watched an interview between Margaret Margolyes and comedian Rhys Nicholson about the generation divide. Rhys uses some twisted logic to explain the hate and envy that he says Millennials have for Boomers. He seemed to be saying that Boomers have lots of money and had lots of advantages, while the poor Millennials have nothing of either. Therefore, he said he wants to share the Boomers' stash. Given Rhys looks like pays his hairdresser in excess of my grocery bill for a week, and the cost of his facials would fund a homeless shelter, he's obviously very well-off - especially being a TV star and all. Using his rationale for the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor, and generation to generation, I'm willing to accept anything he chooses to send me."
"As a late Boomer (1962), I am forced to note with some chagrin that it was Boomers like John Dawkins who took away free university education, Boomers like Tony Abbott that delayed action on climate change for so long, and a majority of Boomers that voted against the Voice," writes Michael. "But you can't choose when you're born!"
Darryl writes: "Yes, blame us Boomers because we did not borrow above our means and had the temerity to put a little aside for a rainy day or a raise in interest rates and if the rates fell saved that as well and saved for retirement. Bought a house and moved in with $6 in the bank and all second-hand furniture and slowly replaced it when we had the cash to do so and didn't want everything yesterday. I know there are people out there genuinely struggling through no fault of their own but when I hear of people struggling on incomes of $200,000 and above, the first thing I think of is that your lifestyle is far above what you can afford and have know idea how to budget or plan."
"I am just amazed how the younger generation speaks/reacts to Boomers," writes Suellen. "I am 70, nearing 71, and running my own business and am treated as a nonentity and with disdain by some young people. And God help you if you make a small inadvertent error! The disdain and anger that followed was unbelievable not to mention the two page email sent to superiors to which I had to write a formal apology. What was my demeanour you may ask? I rolled my eyes at a comment that was made to me, no words. Followed by a threat of banning me from the premises."
Allan writes: "I agree that we Boomers had the best of times. However, our material needs and expectations were so much more modest than young people today. Explaining to the kids our 17 per cent mortgage rates results in rolling eyeball syndrome. And they forget they've been the beneficiaries of our prosperity with nice homes to grow up in, gifts of cars, financial assistance towards the purchase of their own homes. However, I don't believe this issue will go away and it's a matter of time before greedy Labor governments move to get their hands on more of our wealth."
"John, I was born in 1958," writes VK. "I didn't see free university because my father didn't see any reason to 'school a girl' and the final two years at high school was only available to paying academic students, who had the signed approval of a head of department. So, I had to secure a bursary from the school of nursing and do my nursing degree; not journalism as I wanted. And for that privilege, we had to work full shifts for 80 per cent of our nurse schooling. We've missed every government incentive; solar, first home buyers etc as we'd worked and arranged this before an incentive was conceived. We put paper in our windows because we couldn't afford curtains, and coir matting was passed around to cover our concrete floor until we could afford flooring. I've finally retired after being bullied out of the workforce at 63, and my mental health counsellor says I'm allowed to rest now. I've worked hard for it."
Herself a Boomer, Jo-Anne writes: "Yes, it is fair to blame Boomers. Many have taken advantage of the crappy tax policy of negative gearing and half capital gains tax or were public servants who benefited from very generous superannuation policies. That is why they are disproportionately more well off. Yes many worked hard but so do others. Whether we like it or not many Boomers do have it a lot easier than the younger generations."
"Perhaps the generation that came after the Boomers need to reminded that they would not exist if it wasn't for the Boomers," writes Jeanette. "We didn't have to have children."
Alison writes: "Born in 1943, I don't remember ever not worrying about money. The mortgage hung over the dinner table like a tonne of bricks, as I saw it back then. My father came back from the war with PTSD, causing suffering to the whole family. A bright kid, when I decided what I wanted to be I was told it would mean going to college and it wasn't affordable. With few opportunities, I went nursing, enduring its backbreaking work and draconian hierarchies. Women were supposed to work only till they got married. Husband was penurious and sexist to boot. The pattern of powerlessness was set. Need I go on?"
"I doubt that those complaining about us Boomers had childhoods where there were no extravagances," writes Hilary. "Christmas presents were often essential clothes. Dining in restaurants was a rare event for special occasions only. We grew up being very careful with money. Remember that it was changes to rules in accessing superannuation (the 54/11 scheme) and then working and accumulating more superannuation courtesy of John Howard that created wealth for the early Boomers. Now if we really want to anger the Millennials and Gen Xers all we need to do is to introduce an inheritance tax."
Marilyn writes: "Thank you for spelling it out to those who delight in heaping scorn and abuse on we who had the temerity to be born a Baby Boomer. Everything is relative and while house prices are astronomical now relative to the average wage, I don't recall ever having money to even spend on a flat white, let alone dream of going to a concert. Free education came almost a decade after my year 12 so no university for me. I think we called it 'scrimp and save' back then. Literally. Meanwhile, having saved via super for my rainy days, I do help my children when they ask and even when they don't. It's rewarding to see them benefit now as I won't when I've finally had to decency to shuffle off."
"Oh you do love stirring up a good debate! I'm a Millennial." writes Natalie. She points out that in 40 years the average house price has increased by 14 times, whereas full-time salaries have only increased by 4.7 times. Houses used to cost three times your salary, and now they cost 10 times. "My parents got free degrees, worked steady government jobs their entire lives, bought what they needed and plenty that they wanted, gave us overseas holidays and bought us our first cars (dodgy second-hand ones I might add). I don't support the division of the generations into tidy boxes though. It's unfair and disrespectful to all. Boomers grew up in very uncertain times as well, and they worked hard to provide their Millennial children with the lifestyles we enjoy today (or did, until inflation took hold!). They also fostered the desire to explore the world so it's no wonder we all have a fondness for travel. That said we haven't been overseas for a good five years, and probably won't again for some time. And that's OK, I don't blame my parents for that! We're just deep in raising kids and paying off a mortgage. Thanks for firing me up enough to pen a reply. I thoroughly enjoy your musings and invitation to join the discussion."