Monday, 27 February 2017

Feeling Blue (the Shearer)

One of the great sadnesses of being away from the homeland for a long time is missing out on all the little bits and pieces of Australian news that don't make it into the media here in Britain. I gather the big stuff and a lot of political nonsense from my social media feeds and from my too-rare forays into internet radio, but all too often I miss things that I really would have liked to have known about, particularly things that touch on some of my more fringe interests that I don't share with that many of my Facebook friends. The longer I'm here, the more I feel myself losing touch with the little things that made up my identity as an Australian.

Yesterday, while hunting for the words for the next verse of a half-remembered poem (What joy! What retribution! All that blood and gore. Armless, legless, headless corpses, strewn around the floor...), I realised that the author of that timeless little number and countless others, and a familiar voice from many years of listening to my ABC radio, Col Wilson, died earlier this month at the grand old age of 89. And I didn't even know! Boom, right in the feels.

'Blue' was one of that dying breed, in the CJ Dennis mould, that we know fondly as 'bush poets', a doggerilist of the highest order who pumped out verse after rhyming verse for years and never seemed to run out of ideas. There was no air of superiority, no pretensions, rarely a change of meter, just a sharp wit, a keen eye for irony, and an authentic, down-to-earth voice that I've always appreciated and today feel bereft without. Blue would write poems about silly little every day conversations, his kids, politics, whatever came into his head. I first met his verses in the poetry collections that I used to devour whenever I got the chance (I grew up on rhyming verse, a pasttime that goes a long way towards explaining my fondness for folk music today), and then later I heard him weekly on the radio, and his thoughts were always a bit of fun and good for a laugh.



I don't know what else to say. I'll miss the old coot and his songs and I wish I had half his unashamed confidence in my own art. It seems only appropriate to leave the last word to Col and since I'm here in the UK there's really only one verse I could go with:


God save our gracious thong.
Keep our feet safe and strong,
And free from pong.
Wear them instead of shoes,
To pubs and barbecues.
Health, happiness to all of youse,
God save our thong.

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