Written 16 April, 2020
In the news Donald Trump says he’s pulling America’s funding from the World Health Organisation. He reacted carelessly to their warnings about the coming plague, and is now blaming them. His action will mean tens of thousands of people in poorer countries will die. I remember WHO spoke about it on January 30 but resisted calling it a pandemic, and I was longing for them to say it was, for I was about to take my little band of retreaters to Crete to write together there. Early March, I actually cried on the shoulder of Peter Positano, my regular travel agent, saying I didn’t want to lead those people who’ve been with me for years to their death. And I remember Trump saying then. though we were all horrified at pictures on the news of people dying in the streets of Wuhan, that it would go away within a few days. Doesn’t that silly man even watch the news? a Guardian report said that he had 8 officials working in WHO from ages ago, and attending every important meeting. Perhaps he didn’t listen to them, and whose fault is that? He’s a cruel, cruel man. In this pandemic, people react so differently; one divide is those who have a sense of community, and those who have none.
In the afternoon, as the tide comes in, GG films me on Andy’s beach giving a talk about what uniquely goes on in the brains of creative people who are used to creating, compared to the brains of non-creative people. it helps to know, so that you can mime it, and hope that miming it does the trick. It seems to. Before this all happened, the Music Department of ANU was speaking of employing me to teach their composers and musicians. And then, when the trouble began to loom in mid-March but we had no conception of what was to come, they changed panned instead to bring me to Canberra to be filmed teaching it. And then everything closed down. But I need the work, and so I hope, by this little film, to tempt them.
On the sand, I draw graphs of what it’s known creative people’s brains do, and what non-creative brains do. My hero is Brian Cox, the way he smiles winningly at his knowledge as if he’s enchanted it and we get enchanted too, but I keep forgetting to smile at my knowledge. I’m no Brian Cox, I’m only me, and GG is my only crew, and he’s only GG. We do three takes on the strip of sand, and then the tide comes up and the little strip gets smaller and smaller, until I’m standing in the water in K’s best fur-lined boots, for mine are too battered by the way we live. We need a fourth take but the water washes over my graphs, and it’s too late.
Dy rows back from fishing in his cave across the river . He’s been there an hour and a half and caught nothing. We all chat in front of his house. He’s a tech, doing light shows at festivals. he shows us pics of his dragon van. The talk gets on to how we’re all living on our scant super.
“It doesn’t matter much to me- I haven’t got long to live”, he says suddenly. His eyes search mine. “Even without this virus. You know that, don’t you? – I haven’t got long.”
He’s holding his drooping fishing rod, his body turned half away from me, slightly bent, his voice even, his eyes searching mine. He’s not asking for help. it’s almost as if he’s talking to himself. And these are times when you can’t catch hold of someone’s hand, for both your sakes. You can’t reach out and hold the someone, for both your sakes. Even when they tell you they’re dying.
I don’t help him. i should’ve comforted, oh, I don’t know how I could’ve helped him.What comfort can there be? Touch is the only help, and when that’s dangerous…. I so wanted to help, but all I could mutter was something trite about how medicine is moving at such a pace, he may be able to stay ahead of the illness. Which is true, I have other friends doing just that, But such thoughts won’t get him through the long, dark nights.
We must keep talking to him. We’re his only company.