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Karen's Surprise 40th Birthday Lunch

I couldn't let Karen's 40th birthday pass without a celebration... a big celebration. And so it was from the confines of Zizi that I planned a surprise birthday party. After much thought and planning over many months (with grateful assistance from Larry and Janine) I booked the Guest House at the Park Hyatt in Sydney for a lunch on 1 July.

Travelling back from Broome, Karen was blissfully unaware of my scheming. Early on the week at home, I casually let Karen know that we would be spending the night away on Friday and that the kids would be having a sleep over with Nan and Pa. With no more said, by Friday morning Karen was getting a bit ancy - not knowing where we were going (let alone what was planned the next day).

On the drive to Sydney I let Karen know that we would be staying at the Park Hyatt - an experience pretty high on Karen's bucket list. After spending Karen's actual birthday bumping and jolting our way up the long corrugated dirt road to Cape Leveque, I am sure Karen thought that this seemed like a good way to make amends. Over dinner in Sydney that evening I let Karen know that we would be celebrating her birthday over lunch the next day with some friends and family. Despite Karen channeling the best of legal experience to grill me with a cross-examination over dinner, I held firm. Just a lunch with family and friends, I said.

The next day we had a leisurely breakfast - a luxury when you have just spent four months in a caravan with the kids. Sitting on our balcony overlooking the harbour, I said to Karen - "Hey, look - I think that is Uncle Ray and Aunty Jan". "Hmmm", said Karen. "And look, there is Dad and Catherine". "What are you up to Mr Bohm", Karen replied.

And so, at lunch time we headed down to the Guest House for Karen's birthday lunch. More than 60 friends and family joined us for the day, with more than half travelling interstate. We had a great day and an unforgettable weekend.

Thankfully Karen handled the surprise well (I had heard horror tales of people dissolving into a blubbering mess or at the extreme end, needing paramedics for heart palpitations). The food was great and the location amazing but best of all was the company. We were truly blessed to be joined by wonderful family and friends to celebrate Karen's birthday.

After lunch there were speeches and a cake and lots of fun and laughter and before we knew it the sun was setting over the Opera House and it was time for the lunch to come to an end. For those who had travelled interstate, we decamped to the Meriton Suites and continued with champagne, wine and cheese late into the night.

The next day the Bohm, May and Vadla clans caught up for brunch. Perhaps my biggest challenge in planning the event was finding space for 30 people for brunch in Sydney on a Sunday. While the temperatures were a bit chilly, the skies were blue and we had a great morning at Jones Bay Wharf. After long farewells we all headed our separate ways around lunch time.

For us, the party was not yet quite over - with a birthday dinner for our niece Alyssa planned in Wollongong that evening. The next day we packed up the house and prepared to leave back to Broome. Sitting on a plane, it was hard to believe how much we manage to fit into our time back home. It was also hard to believe that in just over a week after sipping champagne in the Park Hyatt in Sydney we would be making our way across the wild and rugged Gibb River Road in the Kimberley.

Post Script

Due to popular demand (actually, nobody asked), here is a copy of my speech to Karen:

Firstly, I want to thank everyone for coming. Karen and I know that it has been a big commitment in terms of time and money for many of you to be here today. People have joined us from Darwin, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and Sydney – and we have come from Western Australia. We very much appreciate you taking the time to join with us in celebrating Karen’s 40th birthday.

I would like to especially thank my co-conspirators – Larry and Janine. Without their help, today would not have been possible. And there are two other very special people who are here today, who I want to particularly acknowledge: Karen's grandparents, Nan and Pop.

Now you may have noticed that Karen is looking very… relieved. Keeping this party a secret, when all the planning occurs in an 8m x 3m space, was not easy! I can only imagine what Karen thought of all of my late nights ‘working’ online in the van, with me shifting my laptop to avoid her gaze every time she came near.

Now you might also have noticed how relaxed Karen is with the concept of turning 40. As a caring, thoughtful husband I have been preparing Karen for turning 40 for some time. In fact, when Karen turned 39 last year I let her know that she was in fact entering her 40th year. As a caring dedicated husband, I have reminded Karen of this regularly over the past 12 months.

Karen, the good news is that some researchers believe babies born today will have a life expectancy of 120, so really your 40th only represents the 1/3 mark.

Turning 40 is a good opportunity to reflect on the person that Karen is.

Without a doubt, Karen is the best wife I have ever had. Now, some of you might think that is a bit contrived: how many wives have you had, you ask. Well, three actually.

Wife No. 2 – Mark, my business partner of 10 years, is here with us today. Mark and I spent so much time together – sharing an office and breakfast and lunch most days – that Karen referred to Mark as Wife No. 2. On occasions, when discussing a challenge or problem, Karen would ask “What does Wife No. 2 think?”.

Karen and I were watching the news one day when there was a story of a man who had an entire second family in another city. We struggled to see how anyone could have the time or energy to have a second family. Thinking this through, we realized that the only opportunity for me to have a second family is if that family lived on the train. At this time, I was commuting several hours each day. So, Karen and I created my Train Family complete with a Train Wife and Train Kids.

Suffice to say, my Train Wife agreed with me a lot more than my other two wives and my Train Children would do as I asked the first time without me having to resort to threatening the loss of iPad time for 7 years.

In all seriousness, Karen is the most amazing wife. She is my counselor, confidant and a constant source of fun and laughter. Karen is my best friend and my biggest supporter.

I am most proud that Karen and I share a view of the world that is not constrained by traditions, norms or social conventions. We are happy to do things our own way. How else could you explain taking a caravan to the Maldives?

Karen is a wonderful mother to our children. Warren Buffet once said “The biggest gift in my life was my mother” (that’s actually an ‘alternative fact’, he really said his father was the biggest gift, but clearly that doesn’t suit my purpose here).

Karen is the biggest gift our children could have. She is dedicated, patient, nurturing and loving beyond words.

Karen’s saint-like qualities are perhaps accentuated by the fact that I set the bar pretty low. To give you a small example, one night in the van recently Thomas asked at 2am “Mum, can I have a glass of water”. Karen moved with the speed of ninja, from deep sleep into caring mother in a split second and had a cup of water to Thomas in record time. I, on the other hand, rolled over and said “Thomas, who cut your legs off?”

Karen is also an incredible source of strength for our family and for me personally. There is perhaps no better example of Karen’s strength than the birth of Thomas. There was no screaming, yelling or tears from Karen, there was just steely determination, focus and strength. So much so, after Thomas was born, Karen said – I kid you not – “Oh, that feels better’ as if she had just stepped out of a car after a long journey. After half an hour, Karen then shunned the need for a wheelchair and walked to the maternity ward. As a consequence, I don't mess with Karen.

But Karen is more than just a wife and a mother. Karen is my business partner.

Many people ask us what it is like to work with your spouse. In reality, nothing has changed. We have always been in business together. Karen has always been integrally involved in all the major decisions in our businesses. To the extent that we have been successful, then Karen is at least the equal architect of that success.

Karen has a unique combination of intellect, intuition and empathy. This was perhaps best demonstrated during the seven years that Karen worked on the Gretley Mine Case. Karen was hugely respected by her peers, not just because she was an extremely competent and hard working lawyer, but because she cared deeply about the men. She wasn’t afraid to hold Senior Counsel to account if she felt they were not completely committed to achieving the best outcome for the men.

But Karen is not perfect… well, not quite. So, to avoid this being seen as a Trump Cabinet meeting, I would like to propose a ‘roast’ instead of a ‘toast’. Yes, it is time to provide Karen with some open and fearless feedback. Importantly, this is part of Pangaea’s approach to continuous improvement. So, if you will join me in providing this feedback then this whole function will be tax deductible.

Firstly, many of you may not be aware that Karen has an addiction. I am not talking about a trivial addiction like chocolate or French Champagne. Yes, I am talking about something far more sinster. You see Karen is addicted to roof top bars. Not just any roof top bars, but roof top bars in New York!

Secondly, Karen expects a level of general hygiene that is just not compatible with Bohm DNA. Finally, I am not sure if you have seen Karen run, but Karen doesn’t so much run as she gallops.

In my books, that is pretty close to perfect. So, with that I would like to wish my beautiful wife a wonderful birthday with many more to come.

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