I have always embraced my blended family


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I have this image of my mother, Maureen, as the only mod in Preston, the Melbourne suburb of her teenage years during the ’60s. She refutes this, but there are many photos of her wearing dark sunglasses indoors.

Mum had three sisters. We’d visit them from Kalgoorlie, where I was born and lived until I was seven, then subsequently from Perth and Adelaide. Following a game of street cricket with my uncles or some mild vandalism, I’d rush inside to be with the girls. Early on, I clocked that they talked with more freedom. I enjoyed the looseness; that their emotions weren’t always in check.

The indelible image of my maternal grandmother, Mary Phelan, is of her at her kitchen table, my aunties sitting around her. I’d pour her vermouth and soda and light her cigarettes as she’d tell me another story. She was an enormously funny woman.

Mum worked, which I think was a little unusual for that time. She was an accountant, and when she couldn’t work due to raising us kids [Tim is the middle child of three], I’d do Meals On Wheels with her. She is very civic-minded. The older Mum gets, the more her sense of empathy kicks in, which I admire hugely.

My parents split when I was about 19. They were a bit distant with each other and we sensed something was wrong. But I don’t feel particularly sad about them breaking up as I have some lovely memories of them being together.

Recently, I drove [from Melbourne] to the south coast of NSW to see Mum, just to talk and crack a couple of bottles with her. We discuss what we’re reading or listening to. She has an inquisitive mind, which I find immensely attractive.

Her partner, Beate, had just returned from Germany. Mum’s sexuality, she says, is a little fluid, or undefined. But I don’t define her as anything other than Mum. I love that she has a partner who loves her. Dad also has a German wife. I must be the only gentleman in St Kilda with two German stepmothers.

Growing up, I was told I was similar to Mum, and that my brother, Jaimme, resembled my dad, Adrian. I don’t really get it as Mum is rather diminutive, whereas I’m a long, thin streak. I guess the inference is that I tend to be a little theatrical and a little emotional.

My younger sister, Gabrielle, is a voice coach for film and theatre. She is the star of our family. We have an interesting relationship. Twenty years ago it turned quite bad, but we are peas in a pod again. She has huge personality that fills a room, and in her company I tend to go quiet. I covet us as brother and sister, and don’t want things to boil over as they have in the past. We are both quite explosive. I’ll gladly keep my explosives in the cupboard.

My first kiss was at age 13. We were living in Adelaide. It was arranged by the Machiavellian little oiks in the class. Catherine and I were made to sit at the back of the class and everyone watched us kiss passionately. It was absolutely terrifying. We were denied the chance for a friendship to develop.

Tracy was my first serious girlfriend. We met at 20, two suburban kids who both loved music. She turned me on to a lot of things, like the short-story writer Dorothy Parker. Tracy and I were together for seven years. We are still very close, and always will be.

I met my ex-wife, Rocio, via the music promoter she worked for in Spain. She’s a very smart woman and there’s a lot to love, but volatility probably entered our relationship because of its speed. It was passionate, but I don’t think we understood each other. A lot of anger remains, but it’s almost wiped out by our joy and love for our 16-year-old daughter, Ruby.

My daughter is a little too beautiful for her own good. She is emotionally intelligent and very watchful. When I visit Ruby in New York, where she now lives, I get extraordinarily nervous around her because she is quiet. Then she can be completely batty. Her kindness is what I love most.

I met Rosemary at the St Kilda restaurant where she’s a waitress. She had never seen You Am I, and just knew me as a guy who sat at the bar and wrote a lot and didn’t eat a lot. Very quickly our chat slid into non sequiturs. We could communicate in absurdity. Just as quickly, we could lapse into seriousness.

Sometimes I refer to Rosemary as my partner, my girlfriend, or my Tinder date (as per our humour), but I just like saying “Wife”, à la Basil Fawlty. She is five years older than me. I find her vastly attractive. Rosemary talks about art and literature the way I talk about records. Her being a voracious reader has been important. It’s where our entanglements lie.

We are both solitary people. We don’t live together, as it’s not a necessity. I like the idea of us, as well as loving her. I’ve played in a rock’n’roll band for 30 years: I need to be a romantic.

Tim Rogers’ memoir, Detours (HarperCollins) is out now.

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