radio radio

I've been doing radio interviews over the last few weeks, talking about The Supply Party. Many have been with local ABC stations in country areas of Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania but, in amongst them, there have been a couple with mainstream Sydney AM stations. One, the first, was a brief outing with George and Paul on 2UE and the latest, earlier on today, was with their rival station 2GB. They booked the interview weeks ago then bumped me for something else. My publishers kept at them however, and eventually we were offered a late night slot on Overnight with David Oldfield. Yes that David Oldfield. There was some mix-up, consequent upon the lateness of the hour or the switch to daylight savings or whatever, and I thought the interview was tonight, or rather tomorrow morning. So last night I went to bed early (I was tired) and fell thankfully into a deep sleep. Sometime after 11.00 pm the phone rang. Naturally I didn't answer it. Then my mobile, which I'd forgotten to switch off, also rang. About ten or maybe fifteen minutes later, when I'd almost managed to still the wild beating of my heart that late night phone calls induce, the same thing happened again. There was no way I'd get back to sleep easily after that. I got up to make a cup of chamomile tea and, while waiting for the kettle to boil, checked to see if this serial abuser had left a message. It was the producer of Mr. Oldfield's show. He'd made a polite inquiry: would I call him back? I called him back ... by this time it was too late for me to go on the 12.30 slot that had originally been booked, so we decided to do it after the 1.00 am news. I drank my tea, I had a bath ... by which time somnolence threatened to return. I kept myself awake spell-checking a long document I'm trying to finish. As for Mr Oldfield, what shall I say? He was, at the outset, like many a radio jock and most politicians, more interested in what he had to say than anything I might offer but as the interview proceeded gave me a bit more room and I appreciated that. He seemed inordinately interested in the deaths of Burke and Wills and the others on the expedition and at one point asked me if I'd felt like joining them? I said not at all, I wanted to live to tell the tale, whereupon he muttered darkly about the many people he'd like to see dead. The summing up question was this: what can we learn from Burke and Wills et al? I answered with an anecdote: while researching my book on Colin McCahon, I came across a couple of deros outside the Matthew Talbot Centre in Wolloomooloo who were having a discussion about the famously lost explorers. I stopped and joined in. One of them, a thin man gesturing with an equally skinny unlit roll-your-own, the type we used to call a racehorse, was overcome with incredulity at the fact that the explorers died essentially of hunger: They were in a supermarket! he said with mingled amusement and disbelief. The Aborigines couldn’t believe it! Burke had refused gifts of fish offered him because he did not trust the givers; King, who survived, took the fish. Empathy, I said to Mr Oldfield, is what we can learn from the story. A defining quality of a man like Ludwig Becker and one that Robert O'Hara Burke significantly lacked. He did not demur.


Adam Aitken said...

I love this anecdote. What a mad city is sydney.


Kay said...

I like that you held your own (with typical kiwi understatedness) with a dj who is ... shall we say ... more of an extrovert. I am looking forward to reading your book.