I do miss Neville H. He’s my mate. Between us we could happily, contentedly feel like ‘…analogue men in a digital age.’ He’s still my mate, my best male mate. I just don’t get to see see him as often as I would like. We met aeons ago – shared a school uniform and a local footy team. His only downside is that he’s Collingwood through and through – and I cherish the ‘poo and piss’, as he repeatedly calls them – Hawthorn. We did uni together – shared digs at a residential hall – married our sweethearts and commenced our teaching careers. Then we moved to different locales, gained new mates, parted from our spouses and lost touch. Eventually he returned to my town, we reconnected, reviewed our pasts and made ready for the autumn years. Mine involved a beautiful woman from Hobart, his one from Thailand. I moved south to be with my Leigh – and now, sadly, I miss my mate.
I miss our Friday nights – together, us two ‘analogue men’, throwbacks to when it was all less complicated, less busy. The digital age has made our lives so full of crap. I tried to comprehend it and largely failed. He gave less ground than I. We’d sit around the table at 15 Lane Street, telling tales large and fantastical. I’d cook him tea, we’d sink a few reds. Then we’d get onto politics – always dangerous. He was rabidly Green, my beliefs of a lighter hue – but I couldn’t bring myself to vote for anyone else. Then we’d settle down to watch the footy – except if the Hawks were playing. Then we’d make it another night. But if the Maggies were on and they lost, it would always be the fault the ‘white maggots’. But this was a put on, an aberration for Neville H has more humanity in his little finger than Tony Abbot in his whole being. He looks out for the downtrodden and repressed – he’d give them the shirt off his back. I am extremely content with my new life by the river in Hobart Town and I trust he’s found similar in our old stomping ground up north. We will continue to get together on occasions, but there’s no regularity now. I wouldn’t swap what I have here by the river, but I do miss those Friday nights with Neville H.
That’s why I enjoyed Nick Earls’ take on it all in ‘Analogue Men’ so much. Reading it was akin to those Friday nights with Neville H, getting gently to the ‘Mr Wobbly’ (in joke) stage and talking, talking, talking. Earls’ central protagonist, Andrew Van Fleet, is about to enter the autumnal years – the years yours truly and Neville H inhabit (with some joy I might add). We know our pomp is substantially behind us, but like Andrew, reckon we’re not completely kaput. We have all downsized – although Neville H reverted to up-sizing a while ago – he’s had a second wind. Van Fleet has been a high flyer, but like many who have realised the digital age has taken away their lives, he has opted for a quieter existence on reaching the cusp. He wants more time with family – his missus Robyn; his offspring, Abi and Jack. And then there’s his dad out there in the granny flat – ailing in his late dotage, but once a legend in in his own lunch-box on the local radio airwaves.
And that’s what Andrew VF takes on – a managerial role in a radio station – as if that’s going to lead to a quiet life! It’s here he comes face to face with another legend in a terminal decline – albeit one of a different ilk – Brian Brightman. Once the king of the wireless in Brisbane, his star has long fallen- but he still battles on at the bottom of the ratings chart, trying to compete with the shock jocks and the new shiny hip kids on the block. He has a patter that has seen better days, often getting him in deep shit he is so out of touch with political correctness – or is he? Andrew soon finds he is drowning – he’s beyond his depth and now he just can’t swan away to NYC or HK on a business caper. There’s also family conundrums a plenty to deal with. Then comes the ill-conceived plan to combine both and solve all issues in one knockout blow. It involved minding BB at a comedy festival down on the GC, paralleling that onerous responsibility with a family holiday. It spells disaster – it was.
Earls has created some characters for the ages with this. From the two kids with digital apparatii hanging off every appendage to a constipated bulldog – he is back to the rare form of his earlier novels that bought so much Mangoland sunshine to a chillsome Tassie winter.
Of course Neville H and I never reached any great heights in our professional careers – which does not mean we weren’t successful at what we did. There is, though, in AVF a soul I can relate to. Luckily I do not have to compete with all that plurry technology as much with these days of retirement bliss. I loved this book. At times I laughed till the tears were streaming. All the trouble Andrew had with his buttocks is priceless. Sure the climax involving a shark and an errant tongue is a tad over the top – so weird it just may be a possibility (except in fiction) – but even with this I was happy to be taken along for the ride. So thank you Nick Earls. For a short time perusing your offering I was around that table again with Neville H, fixing up the world, with not a digital device in sight. Your book, Mr Earls, did that for me – even if it made me miss Neville H even more.
Nicks Earls’ website = http://nickearls.wordpress.com/