Philip Alan West
"...wouldn't change a damn thing!"
I was on my way to photograph another elder Australian, Joan, when I spied this cheeky fellow on the quiet streets of Whitton near Griffith in regional New South Wales. Philip was on the way to his 'local', to settle his tab for "beer and smokes", no other soul about in the sleepy street of a town which has seen more prosperous times, like so many of the remote areas of Australia.
Instantly engaged by this man who looked to me like the poster boy for 'fairdinkum Aussie', I asked Philip what had inspired him in life. He replied, "Surviving!", and confessed to having not taken care of himself, "...as you get older you realise things fail (perhaps I) worked too hard."
Philip's business was truck repairs (as well as serving four and a half years in the army in the 1950s as a motor mechanic), his success in which he credits this hard work and his passion; "the only time I stop is when I'm in hospital!... (you must) be interested in what you're doing, and do it properly!" These are values he's lived his whole life by, and he'll tell you they served him well.
Philip told me he couldn't do without his 'smokes', having taken up the habit at age fourteen. But his other loves are music, "classical and semi classical; hate the modern stuff!", and Carol.
Philip came to Whitton in 1963 intending on a six month stay when he "met a woman", Carol, and consequently never left. "I'm not sure if that's a good thing, or who had the biggest job? Probably her looking after me... I never wanted a woman at the time, but we both needed each other."
I know there is so much more to this man I captured by chance that day; two daughters, a first wife, countless childhood experiences. And what struck me most then was Philip's larrikin persona; but on quiet reflection what resonates with me now is his simple values of hard work and small pleasures. I guess that's what life boils down to for most of us.