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  • Writer's pictureTracey Lee

Will the Real Mick Flynn Please Stand Up

Back in 2014 I asked my dear friend, Michael Flynn, if I could use his name for a character in this novel I was writing. The character was an ex-police detective who had retired with only one case truly unsolved…enter Lily O’Hara.

Like my friend Mick Flynn, the character is a man of great integrity. He is a thinker who takes time mulling over his next steps, his words and his actions. Unlike Detective Flynn, the real Mick has a sense of humour and a laugh that rattles walls. Also like my character the RMF (real Mick Flynn) had a lifetime career solving problems. Not on the police force but in the classroom.

RMF was an inspiring teacher and had a long career in a Canberra school where he was seen as a legend, a minor god and an overall champion human. He would also be uncomfortable with such accolades. He would see himself as a man just doing his job.

Like fictional Mick, RMF loves his family. Both the one he was born into and the one made over many years. He has walked that difficult walk of grief when losses happen, stayed strong for others and cried in private. Approached the deep things in life with wisdom and hope for better days. Even when personal health challenges sought to disrupt the irascible RMF, he overcame the fear and decided holding on was a better course of action.

The future is a funny thing for me at the moment.  Having recently recovered from a brain operation it has made me appreciate the things I have and the people who are there to support me.

There are stories that have yet to make it into the life of Detective Flynn. Things such as: RMF tends to add details to stories that have little basis in fact but sound authentic. When asked how someone might be travelling he assures me that all is well until I find out they have been deceased for some time or had a major health event or that the illness didn’t happen to the person we were talking about. Detective Flynn has not sung Pavarotti nor danced so spiritedly that he, and or others were injured in the exuberant stylings. Fictional Flynn can’t cook, RMF is superb in the kitchen. RMF loves travel, scooting about on his electric bike, aqua aerobics, basketball, his beloved Carmelitta, dogs and the beach. And any day of the week I’d let him loose on a criminal investigation and be assured he’d find an answer or two.

But how does he see himself?

RMF became a teacher mainly because of the influence of his own educators. Particularly his history teacher who, despite his rather disciplinarian teaching style, conveyed his depth of knowledge in a way that the class could understand. Young RMF was a good student and an obedient one. I could imagine he would have been an attentive and curious class member. In Year 10 his love of poetry and politics was ignited by a gifted teacher who always went the extra mile to help students like Mick find their voice.  A science teacher similarly made her students feel they were all important and capable. RMF describes a university lecturer as unfortunate looking …whose lectures were totally engrossing which lead to a love of psychology which ultimately he went on to teach for 40 years.

In his youth Mick was a strong, well-coordinated and fast athlete. He ran, played on the wing in his rugby union team and basketball. But he was held back by problems with his eyesight that lead to a loss of confidence in his own ability. In basketball the fear of making mistakes was heightened by having his older brother as his coach.

When it came to the game, with my eyesight and being shy, I just froze…I was too fearful of making a mistake to be of much use until I was much older.

So with his talent and deep understanding of young people it was natural for RMF to become both a teacher and a basketball coach. A role he did for many years and people who were in his teams still talk about the impact he had on shaping their lives. He was not just a coach but a mentor, role-model and friend to possibly hundreds of Canberra’s young sportsmen and women.

So now retired, RMF loves his life with Carmel in their home in Canberra. A little like Detective Flynn he loves the water. Yamba and Narooma are favourites. He is also a traveller who loves to meet new people. He finds most people friendly in the cities and countries he has visited. I think this is mainly because of his genuinely personable nature. RMF just loves people and he just wants to know all about their lives and where they are going. I recall one New Year’s Eve in Hobart when the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race had ended and our group had lost Mick in a busy pub. He was found sitting with the Irish team who had adopted him as their mascot. Mick Flynn had to be Irish, according to the rowdy lads, and within minutes he knew the whole crew, was wearing one of their hats and quite possibly had invited them to stay with him next time they were in Australia.

Always take him to a restaurant because you will never have to order for yourself. Usually we all just pass the baton to him to select what we eat and the order in which we will eat it. Before the first dish arrives Mick will know everything about the wait staff, the maître d’ and possibly the chef. He has one of those demeanours that just encourages people to open up and tell him everything. And if there’s something he’s not keen on in the dish he will somehow manage to get the kitchen to prepare a dish the way he wants it. It’s quite a gift!

So does he have a philosophy or a belief system?

Well it’s all about fairness. I’m a great believer in the idea that every person is special and deserves respect. Whether it’s a stranger on the street or the surgeon who performed his recent brain operation RMF treats them, and all in between, with kindness that reflects every human’s right to dignity. And this has been a privilege to witness over the many years we have been friends.

What would he like to have done and been? 

Well he would have loved to see an NBA final when Michael Jordan was playing. Perhaps he’d have like to be a piano player or a carpenter. Maybe have been a train driver rather than a teacher. And some what surprisingly he would have like to have piloted a small plane around the world. It was unlikely to happen as I dislike both heights and confined spaces. This did make me laugh. I’ve witnessed him on a chairlift that hardly left the ground!

Mick once said he thought he would die young. It was the only time I was ever quite cross with him because he has been such a force for good in all our lives I couldn’t think of a world without him in it. While he might think that his social network is shrinking because he’s retired, because his body has let him down health-wise, my friend will always be much loved because of the loyalty, compassion, generosity, creativity and hilarity he has shared with us.

So no wonder I chose to create Detective Mick Flynn when the original, the unique, the one and only Real Mick Flynn is such a wonderful human.

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