Today the Australian Clown Doctor community say farewell to our beloved leader, ever-smiling, humble, generous, warm hearted Peter Spitzer, the son of Czech Holocaust survivors who became a doctor then started The Humour Foundation charity in Australia. In 1996 I remember sitting in the gym of a sweaty police boys club in Erskineville with a handful of other fools while Peter explained what a Clown Doctor program could look like. Peter’s vision made our work a reality. Over the years I had the privilege of working with Peter at Sydney Children’s Hospital, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Royal North Shore Hospital, as well as sharing meals at our conferences and hours doing workshops and training where he taught us more ways to help those suffering. We were always inspired by his love for all the fabulous families we are lucky enough to meet in our hospital Clown rounds. Peter Spitzer approached all human life forms with an open heart, eager to learn their stories, connecting with everyone, young and old, whether the head of the hospital or a small kid in need of some distraction. He had the sharp mind of an eager scientist, always enthusiastically sharing his findings with us, always looking for ways to better our work.
My years as a Clown Doctor were punctuated by visits to Peter’s house after the Bowral Ball, where he worked his magic and made people laugh, while the lovely locals raised money to continue our programs. I treasure the memories of staying over at Peter’s house afterwards, and grand breakfasts with Peter and his darling wife Judy as we discussed our work and new ways to fundraise with his beautiful band of supporters. Later I was lucky enough to work with Peter on the pilot Elder Clown program, where Peter shared his passion for making life better for adults living with dementia.
Dear Doctor Fruit-Loop (see I didn’t forget the hyphen) you gave us a purpose for our work. You never grew tired of seeing the joy on a sick child’s face. You gave our performing lives so much meaning, we weren’t there to show off, we were there to empower sick children and frail elderly people. It is always about them, not us. Clown Doctoring is not a job, it is a calling, and you showed us the way. We are so sad you have left us but we vow to continue your work, we want you to be proud of us. Adios Doctor Fruit-Loop, I will think of you and the twinkle in your eyes when I carry far too many props in my coat, whenever I see a rubber chicken, or see a child’s face change from fear to laughter. I’m so glad I told you how much we all loved you the last time i saw you. I have a job and a life of meaning thanks to you. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us, you have left a magnificent legacy.
What an insane year this has been, challenging, difficult, fabulous at times. Lots of kooky things happened in 2013. Apparently astrologically this can be blamed on something up Uranus
In February I lost my lovely friend (my favourite mother in law) and my children lost their favourite grandma in a terrible accident. She was a feisty feminist warrior, an artist and activist and we miss her
I took my munchkins overseas for the first time all together on a family holiday to visit my big brother and we loved it. We had a magical time; boat rides, 1000s of fish, gigantic snails, night markets, turtles, puffer fish, swimming, strange smells, diving, making new friends, eating fabulous Thai food and meeting the marvellous Sister Joan at Presentation Slums Mission in Bangkok. Life is about being with the people you love and telling them how special they are to you
I swam with fish in the Andaman Sea
I kissed a boy and I liked it
When I was MC for North Shore Relay for Life in March I took a bunch of local school kids up to the RNS Hospital cancer ward to sing for the adult patients. So beautiful and so sad. The questions from the kids in the lift on the way down were heartbreaking
I spent the winter writing comedy and workshopping my stuff with the fabulous Ciel. Then in September I had a fantastic time performing in three shows for the Sydney Fringe Festival including a show with my daughters and my solo stand up comedy show
I visited Tasmania for the first time and made great new friends and had a fabulous visit with an old friend. And I went to MONA in Hobart, what an art collection
I spent four days of madness and laughter with my Clown Doctor sisters and brothers and we giggled, played, danced and cheered each other up muchly
Australians got distracted by Twitter and stupid reality TV shows and forgot to hold their political leaders to account on environmental policies. Oops, there goes the Great Barrier Reef and our pristine wilderness
The entertaining children’s author Deborah Abela came to my daughters’ school and ignited a passion for reading in my youngest child. Thank you Deborah
My girls marched closer to adulthood as I learned to let go
The music of One Direction invaded my house like a wrecking ball
In Australia we had a federal election campaign that went on for 50 years (actually seven months but it felt like a gazillion times that). Australians voted against a vain PM and we ended up with Mr Misogynist refugee hater as our new prime minister
A magazine editor thought that a campaign featuring ladies not wearing any make up would empower women
I learned how to play more than three chords on my ukulele and sang funny songs with the beautiful families of very sick children in hospital
Damn, I forgot to marry for money
Around the world lots of crazy shiz went down:
In Britain there was scandal when the horse meat of the apocalypse was declared the national dish. Foal burger anyone?
Russians took a meteor shower
Mansplaining became the word du jour for more than a day
More women said ‘enough is enough I can’t go on’ (in the words of Barbra Streisand), and joined the fight for equal pay as feminists the world over marched closer to the imaginary land of Equality
In the US everyone stood near the fiscal cliff and peered over. Except the billionaires who were too busy raping and pillaging the country
In the Philippines a huge storm killed thousands and wiped out entire villages. MSF and many other charities restored our faith in human nature
Saudi women got behind the wheel and showed that women can drive too
Wendy Davis filibustered her way into feminist history
A celebrity flashed her undies, bought new boobs, had a baby, married her best friend’s personal trainer after stealing him from his fiancee, they got divorced after two days, she adopted seven children from a yak herder in Mongolia and released a perfume line featuring photos of the children in various states of undress (I think). This received more media coverage than unimportant issues like the death of the great Nelson Mandela
Madiba passed away at the age of 95 and the whole world mourned because we have too few visionary leaders and too many greedy narcissists in positions of power
Malala Yousafzai celebrated her 16th birthday with an inspirational speech, “We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back”
All in all a wonderful year of chaos