It is 4:44.
The balconies of the beach houses across the road are splashed with gold, gold, gold;
‘giving it up, giving it up, giving it up, for Sunset Dreaming’.
Rio. Week 1. My last Olympiad? Surely. I had thought London in 2012 my last. Still here, like ex pat writer and fellow COPD sufferer Clive James. He hoped, he said, to have enough puff to see a Japanese Maple flower in his daughter’s English garden in spring. He has lived on another year while others have hurried by and disappeared into that long, long silence.
He was, in 1964, the first ever Australian world surfing champion, and, until his death last week aged 71, Midget (Bernard) Farrelly was a fixture on Sydney’s northern beaches where surfers stood sentinel at news of his passing. Locals like veteran journalist Mike Carlton say they can’t imagine the beach without Midget. He was still riding big old 16 foot hollow boards, till he fell off the earth. Well played.
My lungs are officially 90 so I’m retired and Frances has stopped working in her mid 50s to have as much time together as we can. We are living the lives we might have lived in our 70s had we both stayed well. Who knows?
We always wanted to binge watch the Olympics while everybody else went to work and school.
I realise with a jolt (my God that Netherlands runner Dafne Schippers [pictured] is an Amazon) that every four long years is the only time we see women’s sport treated on a par with men’s sport. It is liberating and disorientating, maddening and heady. Every female body type, briefly celebrated, disappears for another 1500 days. The artistic gymnast, the trap shooter, the volleyball and water polo sides, the pole vaulters, divers, cyclists, the soccer and rugby players, the equestrians, weightlifters, discus throwers, high jumpers, sprinters, walkers and riders—poof—all gone. Wallpapered over by footy players.
And the world doesn’t do stuff much, as a world, does it? In Sci Fi, the star nations are always holding big glitzy space-wide conventions. We Earthlings usually just get together for War. The first Olympics I remember watching were the 1972 Munich Games. The crack and split of hate that announced itself in a massacre of athletes all this time along, still a shocking recollection. ‘Die Heiteren Spiele’ or ‘the Cheerful Games’ as was the Munich motto! End of an innocence of sorts for me. Also the year I started smoking.
Counting off the big world things that have happened in my life, in no particular order, I think of the Berlin Wall coming down, JFK, Martin Luther King and Bobby getting shot, Janis Joplin dying, Feminism, the Titanic giving up her secret hiding place, the freeing of Nelson Mandela, the moon landing, the Australian government’s apology to Aborigines, Obama’s election, and Peace in Ireland after the Troubles.
I can’t quote chapter and verse but I once found evidence the peace process in Ireland was assisted by a lack of testosterone among the main power brokers, who were grandparents as well as stakeholders. And of course a big impetus for peace had come from Irish women themselves who were fed up with burying their menfolk and watching their kids pick up rocks instead of books.
‘Come over to the window, my little darling, / I’d like to try to read your palm. / I used to think I was some kind of Gypsy boy / before I let you take me home.’
Leonard Cohen wrote a goodbye letter to his muse and one-time lover Marianne Ihlen shortly before her death from leukemia on July 29. The lovers met in Greece in the 1960s and lived together for nearly a decade, with Marianne inspiring the songs, ‘So Long Marianne’, ‘Bird On a Wire’ and ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’.
On her deathbed last month in Norway, Marianne received the following letter from 81 year-old Leonard Cohen:
“Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and for your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”