“I met Suzy when I came late to a party straight from the boat, still in full, bright-red wet weather gear, drip­ping wet from the rain.”

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - UPFRONT - SU­SAN JOHN­SON

My grand­fa­ther, Al­lan, built my first boat, a lit­tle row­ing dinghy, un­der his house at Manly [on Bris­bane’s south­ern bay­side] when I was about eight. His fa­ther, Alexander Brown Wil­son, started Wil­son Ar­chi­tects [still in its orig­i­nal premises at [in­ner-city] Spring Hill and run by Hamil­ton Wil­son] – he was the “ar­chi­tect/ artist/boat­ing type”.

There’s al­ways been a kind of pat­tern run­ning through the fam­ily of ar­chi­tec­ture and paint­ing. I wanted to be an ar­chi­tect from about the age of five but once I started the course and learnt what it re­ally meant, I de­cided I didn’t want to be one. I must have been a dis­ap­point­ment to Mum and Dad. I started paint­ing to earn pocket money to travel, and it grew from there.

I met Suzy when I came late to a party straight from the boat, still in full, bright red wet-weather gear, drip­ping wet from the rain. I soon dis­cov­ered that we shared a love of the ocean. She started River­bend and nei­ther of us saw it be­com­ing such an all-con­sum­ing busi­ness. Be­cause I was work­ing at home, we were able to share the up­bring­ing of the kids [Hannah, 26, Char­lotte, 25, and Harry, 21]. In the be­gin­ning, the book­shop was over­whelm­ing and I of­ten felt com­pelled to stay and work.

Suzy’s never been jeal­ous of my work – she’s more likely to tell me to get back to my easel! She has th­ese unique qual­i­ties of gen­tle­ness, strength and hu­mil­ity. She was able to sit qui­etly with the in­dige­nous peo­ple and ask what they needed to help with lit­er­acy teach­ing; they were used to peo­ple telling them what they needed. She’s made a dif­fer­ence to many lives.

We’re still sur­rounded by boats and wa­ter. We’re a very lucky cou­ple, I think.

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