Hugs – I wondered how it would go, the arrangement between Trent Dalton, best known for mega-seller ‘Boy Swallows Universe’ (a tome I seem to be in the minority with as I have never perused it) and the Weekend Australian’s magazine. The notion was that he’d receive emails from the reading public with their own stories of surviving and waiting out the virus in their own abodes.
The first of his ‘Tales from the Bunker’ appeared in the Oz this weekend, at time of scribing, just past. Lovely and reaffirming it was too. Hopefully it will be on-going in future weeks. If so, it will be worth buying the Murdoch Press masthead for it alone. Truth be told I only buy the Saturday broadsheet for that magazine insert and its Review section. Dalton relayed many quite poignant tales in the issue. One that struck the heart was the story of Kate, an 8 year old, the same age (almost) as my beloved Tess, who understands that her grandparents are especially susceptible to the bastard virus. Her reaction was to design a sign her Nan and Pop could display at their front door. ‘Stop,’ she wrote, ‘VIG! Very Important Grandparents.’ Under those words she repeated the dose with ‘First class grandparents. Please wash hands.’ Dalton goes on, ‘The whole suburb now knows that Kate is a VIG as well – Very Inspiring Granddaughter.’ As is Tessa. My very own VIG makes sure that she has a wonderful drawing or something else she’s written or crafted for her own Poppy, each time I call, to take home to treasure.
Another correspondent sent in a homage to a tireless friend, a nurse, who works in the oncology ward of one of Brisbane’s hospitals. Sadly she relayed her disgust that even that place had been targeted by the gutter slime who thought their needs were greater than those struggling against another demanding disease. All the sanitiser had been removed from her place of work by them.
But that was an aberration – mostly the article contained a wholly positive vibe. He had an emailer telling of her still very active mid-80s dad who was having trouble, as do many of us, curbing his out-and-abouting, even with his usual haunts shut down. He took to any excuse to get to Bunnings, the chemist and anything else that he could think of that was still available to him. Three weeks ago this guy met his first great grandchild – through a window of course. The old fella reckoned it was the best day of his life. The emailer’s prayer was that one day the dear guy would actually get to hold this brand new life in his arms.
Trent D started this weekend’s collection by asking, ‘Remember hugs?’ We’re all so deprived of them at the moment. He related another person who took the trouble of contacting him. Toni, who has tested positive, hasn’t had one cuddle from her own brood for three weeks as she waits for her symptoms to disappear.
Of course I’m blessed with hugs from my lovely lady to keep me going, but how I miss them from my Tess, Katie and even Rich. I’d give anything to hold my little grandson again. And to see his Shirley Temple-like sister who’s way away, for now, tucked safe in Bridport. The situation is hard for grandparents; hard for grandchildren. But then, there’s no real isolating, is there? It’s just the physical contact we can’t do at present. I give thanks that the digital age has something, these days, to recommend it.
Dalton’s project does not take us away from it, but after reading of all that goodness I felt buoyant; hope renewed and feeling de-stressed.
Odile – Being a fan of almost anything to do with her home country, way back I was chuffed to have a French penfriend. It was the pre-digital age and writing letters to people overseas was, well, I guess you’d call it a hobby – and I thrived on it. We know any form of letter writing these days is a dying art. AusPost and social media seem to be working hand in hand to kill it off. I’m hoping our present straightened circumstances will bring it back a little, if only on a national scale. The links to the outside world are diminished, except via the ether. We communicated quite regularly back in the 90s and into the new millennium. She lived in a town on the outskirts of Paris and I thought she was quite chic.
Then most of my overseas correspondents drifted away. From most of them, including Odile, I only heard sporadically, usually around Christmas. But out of the blue, a few nights ago, I she came back into my orbit.
Now, during the years of writing to each other, she found she had another connection to my island. A long lost cousin turned up as the mayor of a Tassie locality – the colourful Bertrand Cadart. His domain was the East Coast municipality of Spring Bay. With his Portillo-ian fashion sense, French brogue and larger than life personality, he was known to some as the Crowbar Man after a small role he attained in one of the Mad Max movies. Odile was contacting me to let me know of his passing.
We had a conversation via Messenger, comparing notes on our respective CV situation. She thought she may have had the dreaded virus a while back, but her symptoms were not severe enough to warrant testing or hospitalisation – so, around a month into the French lock down, she is none the wiser but feeling better now. Although it took some sad news to bring her back into communication with me, I hope it will become more regular now as we are both in a similar situation at opposite ends of the Earth.
Scores and Numbers – Last Saturday eve I was waiting for the numbers to arrive. I recalled that at the same time last year they were of a different ilk as I’d be following, on my hand held device, the latest from the AFL. I’d have one eye on whatever it was that my lovely lady and I were watching, one eye on that other smaller screen, especially if the matches were close. And of course, if a tight contest involved my Hawks, my stress levels would be rising. I suppose millions would be waiting on all Saturdays for the lotto numbers to arrive on screen, but that’s not me.
Now I find it de-stressing before bedtime to have another set of numbers come in– from the Tasmanian Department of Hearth’s coronavirus website, telling me of the amount of positive cases on my island for the previous twenty-four hours . Once they’re up, usually around 9.30 to 10.00, I find it, if not too dire, somewhat comforting to go to bed with that knowledge; to know we’re not being swamped, so to speak. Sadly the numbers of late for those contacting the disease in my old homeland around Burnie have been quite alarming. I sincerely hope, by the time you’re reading this, that those, too, have abated.
Millions of Indians can look north and see the majesty of the Himalayas for the first time in their lives. Without the cruise liners and the tourists the lagoon and canals of Venice are clearing of pollution. What are the chances of that remaining the case after we come out the other side?
A book to while away the hours as we wait for the curve to peak and flatten – the wonderful ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens. See my review on my blog – The Blue Room.
Threesomes to Relish – One of my regular routine treats, pre-CV, was my weekly jaunts into the city to connect with my two dealers. They give me great service, do the savvy people at AusPost stamp-central in Bathurst Street, as also do David and Kim at ‘The Coin and Stamp Place’ in the Trafalgar Arcade. I know this habit and their servicing of my philatelic tastes will resume when we all come out the other side, but I miss it.
Australia Post goes on releasing new issues and March saw their annual ‘Austraian Legends’ come outwith their 2020 recipients of the honour. This year it is dedicated to those who make us laugh – and one of the set that has delighted me in particular. I don’t dismiss the talent Noeline Brown, Magda Szubanski or Garry McDonald, but this guy, at a jam-packed Wrest Point showroom, held a vast audience in the palm of his hand a few years back, including my lovely lady and myself. He had all the punters there that night in his thrall, telling yarns both fantastical and with a kernel of truth, keeping us in fits for several hours. He has found immense success in the UK, taking over from Clive James as television’s Australian pricker of pomposity, with his show ‘The Last Leg’. At the same time he has become a leading spokesperson for the disabled.
For most of us, though, Adam Hills’ lasting legacy will remain his role as the genial host of a show that just keeps on giving with its regular repeats on ABC Comedy. We all know it – ‘Spicks&Specks’. And last night Leigh and I tuned into its ‘00s Special’ to help us de-stress our way through these challenging days. Here we reacquainted ourselves with regular panelists Alan Brough and another Aussie living treasure in Myf Warhurst. It bought hilarity into our lounge room. It’s part of a yearly clutch of hour long episodes to keep the flame burning and long may they be presented. It was interesting watching it as, music wise, I realised the noughties must have completely passed me by, yet Leigh was singing along to all the ditties on the show. They reminded us all of what we lost when the series was finally canned back in 2011. You can catch these special editions on ABCiView.
Sometimes the chemistry is magically just right for a panel show and with Adam, Myf and Alan Auntie hit the jackpot. The regard they have for each other is palpable; the musical knowledge Alan and Myf possess immeasurable. With a range of well known guests participating, everyday and now these abnormal woes, disappear.
And this too is decidedly the case with another tele-treat that sees David Mitchell and Lee Mack verbally go at each other under the watchful eye of Rob Brydon, making sure things do not completely descend into comedic anarchy. With a diverse range of media celebrity appearing alongside, but never outshining them, this pair engage in ‘take no prisoners’ repartee and we all have to decide, in ‘Would I Lie To You’, if they are telling the truth or outrageous porkies. Mitchell has remarkable wit delivered in droll style whilst Mack is dynamite with his quick comebacks. This extremely entertaining product first appeared on the Beeb back in 2006 and you can delight in its thirteenth season now on iView.
Currently Leigh and I are devouring the third series of ‘Ozark’ on Netflix and family Byrde descend even further into dysfunctionality with their crooked enterprises. It’s one of that platform’s best.
The signs are positive as we enter the second quarter. We’re all holding our breath to see if the flattening of the curve continues. But it remains a sinister foe, does the virus, as Burnie is currently showing. Fingers crossed.
Trent Dalton at the Australian = https://www.theaustralian.com.au/author/Trent%20Dalton
Bertrand Cadart’s Incredible Life = https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-29/why-bertrand-cadart-keeps-a-ferrari-red-coffin-in-the-loungeroom/11587310
Tasmanian Department of Health’s coronavirus website = https://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/publichealth/communicable_diseases_prevention_unit/infectious_diseases/coronavirus
Spicks and Specks website – https://iview.abc.net.au/show/spicks-and-specks-specials’
‘Would I Lie to You’ website – https://iview.abc.net.au/show/would-i-lie-to-you