From the desk of Roland Rocchiccioli – 31 December

December 31, 2023 BY

Adieu!: Kay Quarti was one of life’s bonne vivantes. Hers was a life well-lived and lived-well. Photo: SUPPLIED

I am not looking to pick an argument, but it is Happy New Year, and not Happy New Year’s – which refers only to the celebration of the night.


ALSO, we are celebrating the arrival of one new year, and not two! They are passing too quickly without hastening the process.

There was a time in my life when the year dragged. The winter term at boarding school – May to August – seemed to take forever, and was freezing.

At this age, and these times, we seem to fly from Easter to Christmas in the blink-of-an-eye.

I came to live in Ballarat for two years, and now I have been here for 15. I cannot exactly quantify how long it feels because time has lost its value, but certainly it does not seem like 15. That is too scary!

Consequently, I am working at a pace to decide what I want-to-be when I grow-up; and to complete all those tasks which still await me, and before it comes my time to sit on a cloud and play a harp!

By no reckoning am I maudlin, but I have grown more cognisant of my date of birth. The numbers are immaterial! While I do not rush to read the death notices in the daily morning paper, the reality of my own mortality is exacerbated – brought into a sharp focus – by chums and colleagues falling-off-the-twig! Some, too soon…

New Year is time to stop and reflect; to balance life’s experiences; and to look-up and smile at those who have been gathered-up, and who brought such joy and light into our lives.

My mother, Beria, died in 2007. She was 96. She was an enigmatic, sometimes challenging women, but I realise, now, she was remarkable. One of those who, through an accident of birth, slipped through the net. I think of her, daily, and wish for one more conversation.

Fortunately, she wrote and left me reams of her recollections. To be able to read her story, written in her own hand, on lined-paper and in biro, it allows me to hear again her powerful voice, lifting-off the page. It is most reassuring. It takes me instantly to a time and a place in my childhood which exists only in my imagination. Gwalia, where I grew-up, is now a living ghost town. The Sons of Gwalia goldmine closed down in December 1963.

Kay Quarti, one of the women who changed my life, died.

Home for a year from her Perth boarding school, she was my first piano teacher. It was her enthusiasm, and generosity of spirit, which unknowingly set me on the path to my career. When the nuns at the local Catholic school refused to teach me because I was not attending the convent, Kay became my saviour. I was obsessed with the piano. In one year she took me to grade 2 standard. I saw her recently, and the end came quickly.

I shall miss Kay’s wit and the humour; however, her place in my heart and life will never diminish. Fortunately, I was able to tell her, many times, of the difference she made in my life. For both teacher and student, it was an enduring source happiness.

My 58 years in the theatre has taught me to be patient, and to remain philosophical and optimistic. Sometimes you get the job; sometimes you don’t – that is how this industry works. Although, I must concede, I have been luckier than most. Only a couple of the big ones slipped through my fingers.

It is a time to reflect – with gratitude.

Keep safe. Happy New Year.

Roland can be contacted via [email protected].