Beneath the din of hubris, of Australian of the year awards and queens birthday honours beats a heart that is Australia at its purest. It is a humble, unassuming heart that has weathered the sleaze and lure of this “civilisation” and sat stubbornly on its throne made from soil and decomposing fruits, eyes dancing mischievously.
This is Bruce Standish. He passed away yesterday. His job done.
Bruce started his fruit and vegetable shop in 1967 on Ormond road Elwood. The tanning salon next door is ample evidence to our community evolution that has binged on everything that Bruce isn’t. Waking up in is creaky bed at 3.45 am every weekday morning and kicking off his seventies , striped bed sheets, that have enjoyed two fashion cycles, Bruce would walk past the motorised trolleys in the wholesale market to the Eastern European man who sat in the dark behind a motley selection of railway hand trolleys, load up 350kg of produce on its two wheels.
“Bruce are you sure that’s not too heavy?”
“Nah, it’s all about balance,” says an unshaven mouth adorned by cheeky, smiling eyes and shoulders that are now moving up and down like pistons in guffaw.
“How old are you Bruce?”
“Apparently, seventy five.”
The creak of the roller door in his shop announced first light of the day. The van is unloaded, the vegetables and fruits have arrived and the shop is replenished. From then, till he posted his weary body between his sheets at 9.30 at night Bruce served his heart and his heart was the conscience of our community. He reeked of honesty and helpfulness from every pore of his body.
Love had found a solid refuge among the cardboard boxes of proudly unkempt produce at Elwood natural health supplies. Bruce was the captain and most gifted player of the team that represented animals( those unspeakable victims of human ignorance) and the vulnerable humans in our community. He was a giver No questions asked Seriously? Yes The antithesis of our novelty deranged society, Bruce would refuse to throw away anything that had a vestige of use to the human body.
He spent most of his time in the back of his shop, cutting all the bad bits out of fruits and vegetables that threatened to circumvent consumption. I met Bruce on the second week of opening lentil as anything- a vegetarian restaurant that runs on a pay as you feel system.
Bruce said “ That’s a great idea! I’ll supply you with what I can.”
What I can has to be THE understatement in the annals of human generosity. For the next few years Bruce plied us with produce. Rarely bringing up the M word and never letting that be a hurdle to the cause of healthy eating for one and all.
“Money, what is money? It’s just a fiction that we take as fact”
“ Love is also a currency.”
His main concern in all those years was that the Sri Lankan cricket team school the Aussies in sportsmanship. Rest assured Bruce!
Thank you for letting me ride with you to the wholesale market in those wee hours, when we laughed and joked and imagined a world that could really wake up. We plotted to disturb people from their slumber. You are the gentlest of alarms. I thank you for the being the father I never had. For being a grandfather to my children. For carrying my son Spike and letting him rub dragon fruit in your cheeks. I thank you for helping me experience the true Australian spirit.
Trust, generosity and self deprecating laughter. Your legacy is a gift that will keep reassuring us that it’s enough to simply be good and happy.
I love you heaps,