Renaissance Max – Tangles speaks out

Today, we heard the sad news that Max ‘Tangles’ Walker has died, aged 68. Always generous with both his ideas and his time, why not read this interview Max gave us in 2012 to find out more about what he considered his achievements?

Architect, sportsman, author, raconteur and all round nice guy, Max Walker now adds software development to his list of skills. Is there no end to the achievements of Australia’s number one Renaissance man?

I started life as Little Max. Dad was Big Max. He was a good dad and a great mate. We shared a lot of interests including football and cricket. He made me a drawing board for me to improve my technical drawing.

I attended the Friends School which was a Quaker school in Hobart, although being the son of a master builder and publican in such a spiritual environment was interesting.

There no one was singled out for an award; there was just a passing reference if you won a swimming medal. We studied in an octagonal room. The eight sides reinforcing the belief that no side is more important than any other. Or no man is born unto himself.

A hotel is also an institute of experience which might be good, bad or ugly on any given day, including a Sunday when we would sell warm beer out of the back of Dad’s car.

My parents split when I was 13.  I could have had a pity attack, but I chose to remain close to both Mum and Dad. I lived with Dad from 13 onwards until I attended RMIT in Melbourne to study Architecture. This fulfilled three dreams of my old man; education, going to the mainland and the ability to get signed up by Melbourne Football Club and play cricket.

There was a big psychological bridge in middle of Bass Straight. To go to the mainland and to be successful was not always encouraged. People might say, ‘Who do you think you are – a footballer, a cricketer, an architect? You’re dreaming!’ I can still see the scar tissue of older people who lack empathy and it makes me want to cringe.

Some people come into your life and change the way you think and act forever. Norm Smith, then coach of Melbourne Football Club, was one. He said, ‘When preparation and opportunity meet, success will follow’. And it’s true. I say that imagination plus association equals possibility – that’s how you bring ideas to reality.

What I learnt from the discipline of being a VFL footballer is that to be very good at anything, it takes time. Unless you’re on Big Brother! This is hard to explain to young kids today – all of the building blocks you need to put down; physical and mental discipline, sacrifice and commitment. My time in the VFL has helped me throughout my life.

My cricketing life ended in 1981 when I came back with an Achilles tendon injury and realised there was no guarantee that I would get through the next Shield match. I had an operation and six months off. I resigned the same day as Shelden was born and within 24 hours the ABC had approached me to commentate.

Cricket probably did cost me a marriage. I spent a lot of time on the other side of world. Elite sport is selfish and to be really good at it consumes a lot of time and focus.

Death is like a huge library door shutting. I am compiling a digital family tree of interviews with older people. I had wanted to do this with my dad, but he died of cancer. Death is a massive closure. It’s not just about the family tree; it’s the associations they take with them.

I did manage to interview my mum, however. “But I’ve got nothing to talk about”, she declared. And when we got there with a camera she had frocked up, put on her lippy and sparklers and draped a dead fox around her neck. We filmed it in the back yard under the Hills hoist. She even talked about my sister, Lexie, who died of heart attack at 38. I don’t think Mum ever quite got over the loss of her daughter.

Before our fathers or mothers pass on we should make an effort to listen to their stories. After my books sold well, my dad said I owed him royalties, as most of those stories were his. So I challenged him to join me at a National Press Club luncheon to tell some of them. Big Max and Little Max – what a team!

I have five children, ranging in age from 35 to 15. First the three boys, Tristan, Keegan and Shelden followed by two girls, Alexandra and Isabella. They definitely help to keep me young.

If you are not reinventing yourself with ideas or re-energising, then you simply cannot grow. You also need to energise your relationships. To find new things to do together, places to go and projects to create.

I am most at home with a felt pen in my hand, a blank sheet of paper and some headspace. My best ideas happen when I am doing ‘nothing’.

Life is about sharing indelible moments. We have a choice to either create them or be bored. If you have a partner or marriage or children then you are very fortunate.

Life is not a straight line and not fair. We must learn to live in the moment.

I question the idea of life balance. Separate compartments don’t exist.

I love a great attitude. Great things can and do happen. The other side is the tall poppy syndrome. We see this in the press which features an imbalance of negative views on crime, murder and death. It has louder currency than good news. But our kids are balancing it by using their social networks and text and new media for the news which is necessary to be known. They will change world. Like-minded people are joining up online – we meet at the picnic, the footy and in online communities.

A good day for me is one in which I enjoy contact with the earth.
I walk three or four kilometres, have a coffee, exercise an enjoy free time down the local café just doodling or thinking. A media free week is also very cleansing.

I wrote 14 books with a fountain pen
Little by little I began to embrace technology and then got out of comfort zone. Next thing, the unknown becomes your new comfort zone. I now work with former weatherman, Rob Gell and our colleagues in the bhive mobile media Group. Our business is to create better engagement using technology in the mobile platform space.

If a grey haired old fast bowler with five broken noses can step out of his comfort zone and embrace the uncertainty of the future and new technology, then anyone can. Retirement is definitely not on the horizon. I have a lot more overs to deliver yet!

Max Walker, AM
[email protected]

YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.
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