It’s been a grim time for losses at the ABC – my broadcast media of choice. Two of my favourite people have died recently and I, like many other people, am sad and missing them. Firstly and very unexpectedly, John Clarke died last month. He was so funny and clever and warm. I loved the series he wrote and appeared in before the Olympics in Sydney, called “The Games” (ABC is repeating it at the moment). At the time John Howard was PM and was studiously not apologising for the treatment of Aboriginal people through the course of (white) Australian history. The Games’ take on this, and the speech that was made by John Howard the actor in the program were just amazing to hear at the time (the thrill of it, the conversations it provoked for days following), and still today…
Then, a couple of weeks ago, Mark Colvin died after long years of ill-health. He was a journalist and hosted the current affairs program PM on the radio each night. I would often hear the latter part of the show when I was driving home from work. He had a very distinctive voice, and style of presentation, and was renowned for his very astute journalism. I liked all that too, but it is his voice that I will miss the most.
He had really poor health for many years after contracting a miserable and rare illness when he was a foreign correspondent in Rwanda in 1994. He was on kidney dialysis for years, and eventually had a transplant – quite a story in its own right and one that was turned into a play called ‘Mark Colvin’s Kidney’ – with John Howard (of Sorry speech fame) playing him.
There are heaps of tributes to him on the internet – ABC website, both tv and radio have lots – he had a pretty good attitude to his life, and wrote the following in his memoir, published last year:
“So, like the legendary lost dog on the poster — three legs, blind in one eye, missing right ear, tail broken, recently castrated, answers to the name of Lucky — I feel that despite near-death experiences and chronic illness, I have had what AB Facey famously called A Fortunate Life.” This brings me back to another of my favourite John Clarke clips, from his early days – a song called “We don’t know how lucky we are”, about his home country of New Zealand, but really about life in many ways – the amazingness of it, and sometimes its good fortune. Somehow death can be such a reminder of the richness of life, its beauty and fleetingness – it’s good to remember.