The Call.

This won’t bring our dog back
And this won’t unstitch time
And if I had a dollar now
For every time I’d hollered out your name
I’d buy us a word mine…
– Clare Bowditch.

Clare’s embedded this, by request–

I got the call today. You know the call. It was a text message actually, which I later learned was a number of emails too.

There’s always a certain tone to these messages.

In my family, since we’ve become adults, the correspondence is usually instigated by my sister–

“Call mamma.”

I was super busy at work today and am still deep in the throws of trying to convince them that I have skills enough to keep the gig– I’m not a fast learner. And I struggle to comprehend when I’m struggling to respect a system. You know? Why work on an old clunky PC with three remote desktops and six different passwords? Why do that? I’m telling you this, of course, because those are not my skills– that’s not what I’m good at it. To be entirely honest, I think I’m much better at death.

Comes with practice, I guess.

I called my mother, as per my sisters request and she sounded snotty and sad–

I made a mental inventory– as I stood there– surrounded by all sorts of traffic on York Street– of all the times I’ve known my mother to be snotty and sad.

Not many.

1. When she went in to labor with my brother when I was 6.

2. When my dear, darling cousin Phillip died when I was 7.

3. Over tea with a friend, once when I was about 15.

4. When she came to visit me in Tokyo when I was 22.

That’s it.

She doesn’t cry much.

‘The Call’ today got me thinking about all the other calls I’ve ever received.

‘The Death Calls.’

We had another dog that died last year.

I remember taking that call while I was at work at The Sydney Breast Clinic. Surrounded by so much cancer, I was fine at first– but then I went to the bathroom to collect my thoughts– That dog had been a very instrumental part of my treatment– a real psychic dog– an enlightened dog– That dog had saved my life– And now she was dead.

As I pulled my stockings down to pee I erupted in to the most horrific chasm of violent tears–

Loud ones.

Big, wet, heaving ones.

I was unstoppable.

That dog had been such a huge part of my life for the slowest, hottest summer IN A LIFE TIME. And now she was gone.

Just like that.


I suppose it worth a mention also, that our family dogs have always been quite an ally to me when I return to my native Newcastle. They’re my mates. Irrespective of my lifestyle. They’re totally up for scaling a cliff by the sea at sunrise. Or swimming in a storm just before dusk. Or driving around the city for ages, their little heads hanging out of the window.

My comrads.

My mates.

I went back to Newcastle for a shoot a couple of weekends ago and little Oliver was so cute upon my return–

He followed me round like a ghost.

So gentle.

So quiet.

While I was undergoing my treatment in Newcastle we three hung out 24/7.

They’d sit at my feet as I wrote.

I’d take them to the sea at least three times a day. Run them. Love them. Feed them. Edwina had bone cancer and let me jog her through an entire six months of it– Like I said, pretty special dogs.

But when Eddie died last year, Ollie started to have panic attacks.

I headed north to visit the fam and let him sleep in my make-shift bed every night. He’d have dreams, big ones, his breathing would grow heavy, he’d twitch and then he’d weep– I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a dog weep– but it’s sadder somehow. You know, you can’t recommend a book to a dog, or an album, or a bit of bikram, or pour them a glass of wine– they’re dogs.

But they greave.

He was a mess after she died.

So it doesn’t surprise me at all that he developed acute lung cancer overnight.

His breathing changed. I saw it with my own eyes.

I’d cuddle him to sleep as he’d panic, and pant and weep.

And we’re mates, he and I, don’t forget– He’s seen me at my worst.

A lot.

I thought Clare Bowditch’s song– The Lights Went Down– was a really fitting song to publish here tonight. It came to me this afternoon as I was perusing all the marine life at the Sydney Acquarium on an excursion for the school I’m working at.

It just came to me.

And I was singing it over and over in my head as I wondered when I’d start to feel really sad.

Really sad.

But I didn’t.

Which got me thinking to how much practice I’ve had at this stuff, by now.

And Clare.

I really like Clare.

I met her at Melbourne Writers Festival a couple of years ago. She was particularly cool. I’ve met her since at The Blues Festival in Byron where she was often spotted with a twin on either hip, a guitar over her shoulder and her little daughter holding her hand. Cool. In my book. I have also seen her reverse park her Tarrago nine months pregnant with twins by the Fitzroy Gardens the day I learned I had a rather impressive sized tumor growing in my ovary. So she kinda rates, in my book.

And she’s had her own sojourn with death– which I came to learn when she gave a talk on writing songs at the Melbourne Writers Festival.

She buried her sister at five years old, and like myself, I suppose, has seen death everywhere, ever since.


And I do.

Whenever I know that I love somebody– I begin to imagine their demise.

I just do.

On auto-pilot almost.

I’ve actually undergone various extensive forms of therapy at three separate junctures in my life to get a grip on this.

And if I have learned nothing else from all that– it is that western culture, in particular, is quite shit at addressing grief.

Under rug swept.

Shush. You can’t say that.


Best not say the wrong thing.

Best not say much.

I resent this about western culture, and encourage anyone with the proclivity to read up some on shinto culture… and Buddhism. Because, in my humble opinion, when it comes to death– They’ve got it nailed.

A blog for another time.

But let me conclude with this…

When I met Clare I asked her something– I asked her when we know that something is done. Finished. Ready.

And she smiled. And said that nothing’s ever done.

Mark Seymor from Hunters & Collectors said that he always asks someone who loves him when something is finished–

Clare then got up and said that she was going to play her favorite cover.

That she’d intended to sing it and play it on her guitar, despite the final trimester pregnancy with twins– but as the afternoon had turned to rain she decided that she couldn’t be arsed hauling her guitar across town, so pregnant.

So instead she read.

And what she read made me love her even more.

She began by saying,

“This is something written by one of my favorites… Leonard Cohen…”

She then proceeded to read the lyrics to Suzanne, as some nutter beside me turned up his transister radio.

Her and I shared a giggle as she read.

Cause you don’t really have to know someone that well to feel connected.

Sometimes I reckon you’ve just got to have ticked a few of the same boxes, and to then be meeting somewhere, most often, under the most prosaic of circumstances.


This won’t bring our dog back
And this will not unstitch time
But deep inside the rabbit’s heart
Where all the windows blew apart
There’s someone making your diamonds…

2 Responses to “The Call.”
  1. Marine Radio says:

    Still, a wise captain regularly makes certain that his or her communications gear is working at peak performance. Marine Radio

  2. Greg says:

    The best way for me to put it into words is – as the tag line on BJ’s emails read………”Lord let me the kind of person my dog thinks I am”

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