KLU is made up of all kinds of special people who give their time, talents and tuition to our students. We come in many forms, from teachers to volunteers.
One such volunteer is Bert, an experienced local chess player who has been generously coming into KLU to play chess with our students.
We sat down with Bert to talk about his time with Kids Like Us, as well as his recent adventures…
Q: How did you first hear about Kids Like Us?
Bert: I hadn’t heard of KLU until, one day, the phone rang; it was Catherine. At the time I was President of the Mentone Chess Club, and the key contact point for the club. She asked if I knew anyone who could spend an hour each Wednesday lunchtime playing chess with the kids. I said that I’d be interested and we arranged to meet. The rest is history!
I asked my other chess-playing friends too, but ultimately I was the only one with the time available.
Q: What made you decide to become a volunteer?
Bert: I wasn’t initially looking to be a volunteer, so it was simply because Catherine asked me. I said ‘Absolutely!’, then immediately went off to get my Working with Children Check – and here we are!
Q: What’s the best thing about playing chess at Kids Like Us?
Bert: Very simple, the kids and staff alike are all lovely people! There’s such a positive and creative vibe about the place, making it lovely to be a small part of. Moreover, seeing the kids develop an interest in chess and improve their knowledge is a pleasure.
When I started playing chess about 60 years ago, no-one ever, ever just let me win – I lost countless games before I won at all. I try to help, give pointers and often forgive simple mistakes, but in the end one learns to play chess through losing – not by being gifted games. I’ve lost one game in my time at KLU, and I was delighted!
Q: Tell us a little about your recent travels and your unique photos you sent to us
Bert: My wife and I were away for the month of June. Just before we left, Sarah [a member of the KLU team] asked me to send some pictures for the kids at KLU. I can’t remember her exact words, but they left me with the idea of taking a chess piece along for the ride. It became an enjoyable part of the holiday deciding where next to take a picture of the White Queen (and later the Black King too). It greatly amused my family, as well as other people we met along the way.
We first went to Rome where we had a wonderful long weekend some of my relatives. It was easy choosing places to take pictures of the White Queen – The Trevi Fountain, The Vatican, and The Colosseum were all fabulous backdrops!
Then, we travelled on to Gloucestershire and Somerset in England to visit more family. While lovely areas, they are not quite as spectacular as Rome for the White Queen to visit. We found a few nice rural places to take pictures – including a new donkey sanctuary!
After a just under a week in UK, we moved on to Canada where still more of my family lives. Before getting to their home in Kingston, Ontario, we flew to Quebec City before driving to Prince Edward Island. While a long way, this allowed us to visit the provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick – both of which were new to us. Much of the area is very French, which definitely challenged my language skills! The White Queen was joined here by the Black King, and together they visited places such as Green Gables of Anne of Green Gables fame, a French Patisserie in Fredericton, Riviere du Loup, the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa and so on.
We spent just under a week with my family in Kingston. It was my birthday during our visit, and my brother hosted a dinner for us with all his family – it was some party! Here the White Queen visited a now closed prison, took a cruise around The 1000 Islands and toured Fort Henry. The weather was perfect!
Lastly, each time we return to the UK we try to visit a new destination in Europe. This year, it was Amsterdam. The White Queen took a cruise on the canals, visited Anne Frank’s house, and even went to see The Dam.
Q: If you were a chess piece, which piece do you think you’d be – and why?
Bert: I don’t really mind if I play white or black but, in either case, there’s only one piece I would want to be… the King!
Why? Well, I would castle early and find a nice safe place in the corner of the board protected by pawns and pieces. From there, I would direct my army on its quest to capture the opposing King.
Q: What do you do when you’re not at Kids Like Us?
Bert: I’m retired now, so apart from normal household chores, my main focus is on family. While working, I spent a great deal of time away, so now I spend as much time with them as possible. In fact, we’ll all be going to Hong Kong for my granddaughter’s birthday. She’ll be the same age as our daughter was when we first moved to Hong Kong in the early 80s, and it will be great to see their reaction to that wonderful, exciting city.
I’ll be sure take the White Queen and Black King on another adventure!
Apart from family, I love watching cricket – test cricket especially. I played for many years, with my last competitive game in Hong Kong in 1986 just before coming to Melbourne on a two year secondment… We are still here 30 years later, and we love it!
These days, I play chess online with people from around the world, which is wonderful. During the holiday, we caught up with one fellow chess player while in Ottawa. He and his wife are now our good friends, and we had a superb time together.
I also really enjoy cryptic crosswords, so I’m never bored! I like cooking and frequently (usually weekly) go to the movies, as I prefer seeing new films first on the big screen.
Q: What was your favourite book when you were at school?
Bert: Gee this is a tricky one, as it is such a long time ago! Rather than nominating just one book, I’d say that my favourite books were the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.