Ben’s father died last night. He was only 72.

I was very fond of him. I don’t think many can say they are as fond of their father-in-law as I was of mine. He always treated me well and was very supportive of me, so I’d like to write a post about him.

He and I have exchanged emails semi-regularly over the years and in fact, the last email I have from him is dated the 24th of January when he must have been ill in hospital and yet he did not mention it. Instead he told me about this article in the NYTimes, Industry awakens to threat of climate change. He sometimes commented on my blog, his handle is MikeM, and I always loved it when he did because he wrote clever, sensible things. We had similar views on many things, including climate change. He also disliked Auckland as much as I do and for similar reasons. The phrase I sometimes use to describe it, “featureless suburbia”, I stole from him.

He had a good appreciation of art and music and was a bit of a painter himself, he was also interested in economics, politics and ethics and had a great sense of humour. He was one of the least materialistic people I’ve ever met and not at all interested in stuff.

We had an annual birthday present ritual of gifting socks to each other. He would always give us socks for our birthdays and we did the same for him. Every year I got a very cool pair of tastefully chosen socks for my birthday from him. I’m not sure how this started or who started it, but we all enjoyed the ritual and I always looked forward to seeing my birthday socks and whatever crazy colour/pattern they might have.

He was an academic at the University of Otago in computer science for a time. He left mid-way through his career to join the private sector when he moved to Australia and worked as an IT professional before retiring a decade or so ago.

I’ve got this old photo of the new computer at the University of Otago taken in 1973. That’s MikeM (this is what I always called him), third from the left.


Here’s a young version of MikeM, looking very James Dean.


And a very young version with his mum:


And an older version with two of his grandkids:


He became a photographer in his later years and developed a very popular Flickr account of his wanderings around Sydney called Newtown Grafitti. He used to boast to me that it got in excess of 20,000 hits per month which is pretty good. I see his last posting was on the 5th of January.

On one of his wanderings once, he saw some musicians filming a music video. They asked him whether he’d like to be in it. He said yes. Here’s the result:

Although he’s portrayed as a sufferer of Alzheimer’s disease in the video, the truth is that he had his wits about him until the very end.

He was born Richard Charles Lowes Martin (but called himself Mike) in New Zealand on 8th August 1941 to Charles George Martin and Dorothy Wall Martin (Lowes). He leaves behind a wife, four brothers, four children and eight grand children.

I know that he was very fond of Bach and the cello, so MikeM, this is for you. I will miss you.