Friday, December 6, 2013

Where were you when?

At my desk, this morning, I was greeted with the news that Nelson Mandela had died. It wasn't surprising news seeing that at 95 and the family keeping him alive since July, it was a bit of a blessed release. Sad news, but not surprising. He's begrudgingly been on my Dead Pool** list for many years - not out of malice, but out of a sense that a man who lived 27 years in a South African prison will probably lose a few years of life to stress and hard labour. He lived an amazing life. 95 is nothing to sneeze at.

Nelson Mandela was an amazing man, one who's passing should have seen the Australian Flag lowered to half mast on government buildings out of respect - not that he would see that as anything that needed to be done, but still...

It got me thinking, I will live on, knowing that around 8.30am on this morning, I was sitting at my desk at a large supermarket chain when I saw the breaking news on my computer.

My first reaction was to say a quick prayer of thanks to the universe for sending him here, followed by a prayer that he find a lovely resting place, where ever that may be.

I remember waiting in my room in a share flat in Kensington, Adelaide on a hot 11 February 1990 waiting for him to be released. Nobody had seen  him in nearly 30 years. The sprightly septuagenarian was a delight to see. Who could have predicted the next 24 years?

Thinking back - other momentous moments:

Elvis - he died a few days before my ninth birthday and I was stuck in bed with a really bad cold and the news came over the radio.

Steve Irwin - at my desk in the office where the dead pool was run. The recalcitrant journalist came running over to my desk and claimed, "We'll that's a bugger - nobody had him." I just remember thinking that he died doing something he loved, lucky bloke.

11 September 2001 - I didn't get the news until the next morning. Waking at 6.30 am I turned on the news as is my normal habit and tried to find a channel that wasn't playing this strange action movie. It took a few minutes to work out that all of what was going on was real.

Lady Di - 31 August 1997. I was in London and there was a persistent knocking at my front door of the apartment. One of my downstairs neighbours was standing there in tears. "Pand, Lady Di is dead?" she wailed.

Somewhat bemused at the sobbing, nightie clad woman in front of me, so I took her in, made her a cup of tea and turned on the telly to see the news. Unfortunately, it was true, though I couldn't understand why my downstairs neighbour was a) so upset and b) why would I need to know this information at 7.30 on a Saturday morning. It was sad news, but it could have waited until a respectable hour on a Saturday.

That was the start of a surreal week, culminating in taking the bus down to a friend's place to watch the funeral on the following Saturday - and shedding a tear as Tony Blair read from Corinthians 1:13. I was the only person on the 139 bus down Abbey Road which would never happen on an ordinary day. London was silenced that day. I remember seeing the funeral cortege go past on Finchley Road a few hours later, dragged up there a ten minute walked away by the same neighbour. I remember her saying that I would remember that day forever.

I will never forget the flowers that were strewn across Finchley Road that day. It was like something out of a sad fairytale.

It seems, however, that most of the time I receive this sort of news, I'm at my desk at work.

My most momentous hearing of news.

The death of my father.

At the time I was living illegally in London. The day before had been wonderful. The first real spring day in mid-April, I'd had a good day at work, followed by a great drama class and a good night down the pub with the class.

At about 8 am the following morning the intercom went in the flat. The police were at the door. I just remember thinking that I was about to be deported and how humiliating would that be.

The policeman told me that the phone in my flat was off the hook and could I call home. (Flatmate had a dodgy phone in his room where this happened regularly. This was in the time before mobile phones.)

I knew that it was going to be my grandmother or my father who had gone. It was the latter.

You remember these moments. When the bottom falls out of your world, try as hard as you can, you don't forget.

** The Dead Pool was something we did at an old job - run by a recalcitrant ex-journalist, at the start of a given calendar year, you nominated ten famous people you think may kick the bucket in that given calendar year.

The people on the list need to be obituary worthy. We're not talking about putting your nana who's got end-stage cancer on the list.

There is no malice or willing about this. An extra point is given if the person is under 40 (So a couple of people cleaned up when Amy Winehouse shook this mortal coil a few years ago). It appears that this is a favourite hobby of Newscorpse, oops, Newscorp journalists. Should that surprise me?

It can be seen as a bit tasteless.

It is, but as I align well to the recalcitrant ex-journalist and it appeals to my slightly macabre side, it's something that I've continued on the sly.

It's not something everybody is comfortable doing - and I state clearly, it is not a death wish, but a speculation of the future.

My current list - now that Nelson Mandela is no long with us :

1. Ariel Sharon - ex President of Israel
2. Kirk Douglas - actor, purveyor of bad plastic surgery
3. Prince Philip - Mr Queen, casual racist and Minister for the Inappropriate
4. Zsa Zsa Gabor - heavily married socialite with formaldehyde for blood
5. Justin Bieber - brat
6. Gough Whitlam - Australian Legend, ex Prime Minister, hero
7: Lindsay Lohan - unfortunate yet talented Hollywood train wreck
8: Billy Graham - Famous American God Botherer
9: George Bush Senior - Delusional American Ex President
10:Clive Palmer - Heart Attack (and by-election) waiting to happen

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