I LOVE…NAN WITCOMB IS MY NEW BFF….she’s wonderful, she’s wise and she’s twice my age

One of the most difficult things that any of us have to deal with in life is the death of a loved one.  Nothing can quite prepare you and even though we know eventually that moment, or moments will inevitably arrive, it’s just a shame we can’t talk about it prior to the event, before it lands in our lap.

All those things that we would have liked that person we loved and subsequently lost, to know that we felt about them is so often not said, and forever regretted.

And all because we can’t bare to discuss the subject, so we push the thought of ‘the day’ out of our minds as if somehow that may prevent it ever occurring.

When my significant moment arrived, the day that I lost my grandmother I was heart broken.  Although I didn’t verbalise everything she meant to me, I do know she knew how special she was.

But what came in the passing months after she passed was another enormous wave of emotion when I realised I no longer had any real connection with a woman of her age and wisdom.

What knowledge and insights would I need in my life to shape me in the way that doesn’t just come from people of my own age group?  It didn’t sit well with me.  It didn’t feel healthy.

A few years later while working in radio I received a beautiful book in the mail called The Thoughts Of Nanushka.  Sent to me by a man I’d never met but who clearly had a very kind soul.

He explained in the letter that he had a feeling that it was a book I should have, and that I would enjoy.

Fast-forward to 2 months ago in what came as another lovely surprise, I received a second volume on The Thoughts Of Nanushka in the mail, and what was even greater joy was that it was sent by the author herself.

Her name is Nan Witcomb, who I naïvely discovered was from Adelaide.

Somehow Nan Witcomb a name known well to a generation I felt I’d lost touch with had sensed I might like to connect with her books.

Talk about the universe working in divine ways?

Nan Witcomb and I have now become firm email buddies and with every letter I receive I rejoice in the wisdom of a woman who has lead such a colourful life that I can’t begin to tell you what a hole it has filled in my own.

South Australia I think know better than most states how to really honour a true icon, so if you don’t yet know all about Nan, it’s time to get on board.

Nan, who will no doubt be a little flushed when she reads this (as I won’t warn her before), really is a national treasure and has sold over 300,000 books all over the world.  One of her poems even being read at the funeral of Michael Hutchence!

For 23 years of her life, from 1950 on she was a senior air hostess at ANA which then became Ansett, and has since written a delightful book called Up Here And Down There, honouring the ‘flying girls’ who were so brave and so ahead of them time.

Ironically Nan also did her time on radio, with various stints on Adelaide airwaves including afternoons at 5DN with Ken Dicken.

I have to say I feel just so blessed to have found this new friendship for countless reasons.   One being I believe without the combination of young and older Australians, we run the risk of losing the power and beauty of hindsight.

Not everything we’re doing now is better because it’s called modern.

As Nan said in one of my her notes “I don’t know how people find time to be on Face book and Twitter…..I’d much rather spend time in the garden.”

And since discovering my new friend, I’d much rather be reading one of her books.

27 thoughts on “I LOVE…NAN WITCOMB IS MY NEW BFF….she’s wonderful, she’s wise and she’s twice my age

  1. Hi Amber,

    There is something very special about connecting with someone from another generation. So much to hear and learn on any scale.

    I am surrounded with teenagers and all their angst, roller coaster emotions and opinions (and boy, do they have opinions).

    Meeting people from older generations, no matter what your age, seems to have a calming effect on the soul. They have incredible life stories and skills that I only wish I had/have.

    It would be fabulous to see something in schools or the community, where the young connect with the more mature, to discover a base for learning things outside and away from technology. Go back to basics and simply be simplistic for a while.

    There are so many things we have not learned, as we try and just keep up, and those things snowball with each generation.

    So glad you have a bestie in Nan – she is an Adelaide gem.

    Thank you for this post – gave me food for my own thoughts 🙂

  2. The Thoughts of Nanushka has been a constant in my life ever since I can remember. As a young child i would observe endless copies pass thru the lounge room as just like the man who felt he should send you a copy my mother would time and time again gift them to people who would pick them up off the coffee table and comment on how beautiful they wre, she would insist they take that very copy and replace it soon after, only to have the same thing happen again. It was not until some years later I finally picked up a copy from the table and realised just how beautiful they wre. I now have a set of 4 of my own that have been with me for over 20 years, moved house with me several times and sit on a coffee table just like mum had. I’m not as generous as her, I don’t offer them as gifts as I know it is near impossible to get copies of them today. Nan Witcomb is a treasure and it is so nice to read your post about her and how she came in to your life

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  5. Hi Amber,
    I love your honesty and vulnerability in this piece, particularly your statement:

    “What knowledge and insights would I need in my life to shape me in the way that doesn’t just come from people of my own age group? It didn’t sit well with me. It didn’t feel healthy.”

    So true! This is an uphill battle for our generation because we are taught too much to rely on ourselves and seek ‘inner wisdom’ rather than learning from our elders. Unfortunately the older generation have a much stronger sense of community, accountability and connection that we will ever have. It seems we have become so overly consumed by our careers that we think we know it all and as a result have forgotten humility and the ability to be teachable. This frustrated me so much as a teacher that I forced my students to visit the local nursing home twice a week for six weeks! I have to say it was a moving experience for myself and my students.

    Thank you for your transparency and willingness to confront challenging issues in your writing – it is much appreciated!
    Kristy Do

    • Kristy thank you so much for your really sweet and thoughtful comment about this column, and this wonderful woman Nan. Who I am actually meeting face to face in Sydney on Friday. I’m interviewing her for a video series all about women and their wonderful wisdom. Couldn’t think of a better person than her to start the series with . And congratulations to you on what you initiated as a teacher. That is just a wonderful idea of yours. I can’t tell you how much I wish other schools and teachers would have the foresight to do the same. We are in desperate need on taking a long hard look at our values right now. And our attitudes towards community and the elderly. Our focus is currently on many things that are simply NOT what we’re here to focus on. Such a shame!! Thank you again Kristy…….Lots of love to you.x

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