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The secret life of bosses

Date

Sylvia Pennington

Lawyer and children's author David Downie with some of the titles he's written.

Lawyer and children's author David Downie with some of the titles he's written. Photo: Paul Harris

Scrambling to the top of the career ladder doesn't leave serious suits with a surfeit of leisure hours. Some snatch their recreation on the golf course or bike path in the early hours. Mining magnate Gina Rinehart unwinds with creative endeavours. The world's richest woman revealed her literary side earlier this year with the publication of Our Future, a poem extolling the virtues of the resources sector.

Others favour more esoteric pursuits, a world away from the cut and thrust of corporate life. Here, four high fliers share their off-duty passions.

David Downie

Entrepreneur Michael Sherlock, the founder of hot bread chain Brumby's and also a rock and roll groupie, finds a novel way to combine his two loves.

Entrepreneur Michael Sherlock, the founder of hot bread chain Brumby's and also a rock and roll groupie, finds a novel way to combine his two loves.

Lawyer, children's author

From Monday to Friday, McCullough Robertson partner David Downie pores over contracts for high-tech clients who call on his intellectual property law expertise. Off duty, he unwinds by writing children's fiction. Books are dashed off at Enid Blyton-esque speed, with Downie typically churning out a 6000-word manuscript in a weekend, when the mood takes him.

He's produced three stories this year for the eight-and-up market and amassed a global team of volunteers to edit and illustrate his yarns and translate them into more than 30 languages, including Javanese and Irish Gaelic. Stories are for sale on Amazon.com or children can watch them read aloud on YouTube for free, by performers who donate their time gratis.

Michael Sherlock puts on his corporate face.

Michael Sherlock puts on his corporate face.

It's a benevolent literacy project, not a money spinner, says Downie, whose love of language drew him into the law.

"It's about making books available to children who wouldn't otherwise have access to them," he says.

"I hope kids around the world can enjoy a book for free in their own language. I get a great sense of satisfaction from it. Every now and then I get a creative spurt and spend a weekend writing another book."

Michael Sherlock

Entrepreneur, groupie

Speaker and corporate strategist Michael Sherlock made his dough from Brumby's, the hot bread business he grew from a single store in 1975 to a $46 million, 320-strong chain at time of takeover by RFG in 2007.

Outside the boardroom he's a rock and roll groupie who has attended thousands of concerts, beginning with the Rolling Stones at Melbourne's Kooyong tennis stadium in 1972 and continuing through to Coldplay's Australian tour this month.

Younger years in London saw him taking in four gigs a week, including Pink Floyd, Elvis Costello and the Stones more than a dozen times apiece.

There's been the odd spot of celebrity shoulder-rubbing over the years. In 1973, an after-show encounter led to backstage passes for himself and a mate for the next night's performance and an invite from Rod Stewart to join his band, Faces, for the rest of their Australian tour.

"I stood at the side of stage, handing Rod his whisky and dry," Sherlock says.

"There was no one but us and the band."

These days, Sherlock gets to a gig around once a month; his taste taking in new talents as well as nostalgia rock.

"I've always got tickets lined up," he says.

"I always wanted to be part of a band and never had the chance … I've been to that many concerts, wanting to experience it and not having the talent."

Lorie Helliwell

Change management chief, twinkle toes

When she wants to shut out the clamour that comes with running a national change management consultancy, Ogilvy Impact managing director Lori Helliwell returns to the hobby of her childhood.

The 40-something Sydney-based Brit donned ballet shoes and leotard 18 months ago after a 33-year hiatus and has become hooked on plies and arabesques. After hours of classes and weekend rehearsals, she recently performed in her first concert alongside a melting pot of other adult performers.

"It's given me a strength I didn't realise I had and made me a little more brave," Helliwell says.

Refreshingly, the ballet studio is a place where status and occupation count for little, she says.

"You're not judged by what you do or where you work."

Helliwell describes dancing as both relaxing and intensely focused - and as reinvigorating as the day job can be draining.

"You come out completely energised … it keeps me sane, happy, fit and healthy."

David Hedemann

Retail development executive, petrol head

While formula one has a certain cachet and horse racing is known as the sport of kings, greyhounds and V8 supercars sit closer to the other end of the style spectrum. It's the latter that floats retail development consultant David Hedemann's boat.

A well-known figure in the Queensland property sector, the former Multiplex project director is no stranger to a bit of high life. If there are clients in tow, it's the cricket, rugby union or posh nosh at Aria or the Brisbane Club. Off duty though, he heads for the Willowbank raceway circuit outside Brisbane, fold-up chair in tow, for the smell of petrol and the sizzle of deep-fried Dagwood Dogs.

Sitting on the sidelines didn't come easy to at first, after a youth spent racing a modified Datsun 1600. These days though, he's happy to watch and relax in a milieu somewhat removed from his usual.

"V8 has a large blue-collar following, but not exclusively," Hedemann says.

"Formula one is a very refined sport. There's not much contact between cars - it tends to be race-ending. V8s, it's a bit more push and shove."

And an escape from the corporate world, he adds.

"I've never taken a client - it's a sneak-off hobby, not something that gets discussed very regularly."

What hobby helps you unwind from the 9-5 grind?

10 comments so far

  • What helps me unwind? mmm reading the SMH on line... such news worthy articles.....

    Commenter
    michael schokman
    Location
    killara
    Date and time
    December 05, 2012, 11:13AM
    • David Downie's hobby is promising! I'm currently over half-way through my Law degree but I am also an avid writer - mainly creative non-fiction and poetry. I often get the bemused or confused questioning when people find out that my Arts major is Literary Studies. I was also told that studying Law will kill my passion for reading; instead, it has probably enhanced it - after reading bleak judgments day-in, day-out, it's refreshing to read something with some creative substance. I admit,Literary Studies doesn't have the most linear correspondence to Law but it does have its benefits with improved and broad writing skills, not to mention my passion for it and the ability to unwind!

      Commenter
      Mango
      Date and time
      December 05, 2012, 12:19PM
      • I play angrybirds (the original) for 15 minutes each lunchtime, then go for a 30 minute walk.

        It puts my mind in a zen state. Like thinking about one hand clapping.

        I'm now ranked as the 157th angry bird player in the world, based on total score.

        But i'm not the top ranked Australian. There are 4 others above me in rankings.

        I'm 45 and I own and run a moderately successful small company, and employ a few over 50 people.

        I suspect I'm the top ranked over 45 year old in the world.

        I'm not sure I will get much higher. I have an addictive personality. Maybe I should put in the effort to crack the top 100, globally.

        For the record, there are 27,570,219 registered players. Of that, the top 54 scores are all hacked scores.

        So really, I'm in the top 103 legit scores.

        Other than killing bad piggies with my angry birds, I'm not a violent type. I hate guns and cruelty to animals. In fact, I'm quite chilled out. Before Angry Birds, I was up tight and stressed all the time.

        Commenter
        Kam i Am
        Location
        Work
        Date and time
        December 05, 2012, 12:45PM
        • people watching. i stay with my cuppa at a local restaurant and watch teh whole world go by, pretending i am not part of it. It is amazing what you analyze, the frustrated mother struggling with a child on the shopping cart and the hsusband walkign ahead in bliss, an old very sickly man with a trolly full of toilet rolls and i wonder will he ever get to use it; newly arrived migrants... have they packed their suitcases full of ancient culture and beliefs and where are they going to be discarded in Australia? Hmmm.... it unwinds me so and then i come back to work energised knowing i am not alone in this universe....

          Commenter
          socres
          Date and time
          December 05, 2012, 1:48PM
          • I polish my collection of shrunken African heads

            Commenter
            Rupert
            Location
            My Basement
            Date and time
            December 05, 2012, 2:07PM
            • Selective reading SMH during lunch..only those that interest me..

              Commenter
              AliA
              Date and time
              December 05, 2012, 2:21PM
              • I unwind practicing my golf swing, usually on the rooftop of my office building. Sometimes I use real golf balls. I aim at the British Consulate on the other side of Macquarie Place. It's very satisfying when I hit target. I've knocked out their windows 3 times. At other times I aim for the buses travelling up Loftus Street.

                At other times I aim for my employees on their lunch breaks.

                Most balls end up at the base of the Pioneer Women's statue in the park. I go down in the early evening to collect them, having one of my "El Rey del Mundo" cigars on the way and chatting to the ambos stitching up the heads of the bus drivers I hit.

                So peaceful.

                Commenter
                Andrew the Executive
                Location
                CBD Sydney
                Date and time
                December 06, 2012, 2:51AM
                • Archery I am a mad keen archer. I just wish I was as good as I think I am. But its good clean healthy fun that requires skill and concentration and you meet a lot of really nice people. And as i like buying toys there are certainly a lot to choose from as well. I have even been known to dress up and shoot a longbow.

                  Commenter
                  Simon from Whyalla
                  Date and time
                  December 06, 2012, 8:11AM
                  • I prepare my house for Zombie invasion

                    Commenter
                    BusterJMD
                    Location
                    Sydney
                    Date and time
                    December 06, 2012, 1:44PM
                    • Gin and Tonic.

                      Commenter
                      thirtyoct
                      Location
                      Sydney
                      Date and time
                      December 07, 2012, 2:26PM

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