Homage to a good egg

Big day Friday, the last day of work:

Bunches of flowers: 2
Wondrous speeches about moi: 2
Lovely cards detailing my awesomeness: 2
Gifties: too numerous to mention
Wine consumed: ditto
Unscheduled weeping: 3
Unproductive retch on Lt Collins: 1

It was a marvellous day, and a fine send-off after such an ignominious end to this little part of my career. And although I’ve foamed enough about the pit of rabid sharks, vicious piranhas and screaming eels in my job, I actually neglected to mention some of its finer points, which is, as you’d hope, the people.

It’s not every day you get to work with one of the world’s truest gentlemen. Dools, my former co-editor on the magazine is a man who’s driven me MAD over the years and sent me running to many a bottle in the early afternoon, a man whose working style is…how shall I say this delicately…not like mine, and how else shall I say…educational. And now, years later, one of the reasons it was so hard to peel myself off this job is the kickass team the two of us were.

In the last few weeks of the job it was made official that everything we’d worked towards has been destroyed, which was heartbreaking indeed (the mag will be renamed, re-designed and the newsstand strategy shelved – praise be to consultants). The thing I’m now saddest about, however, is no longer enjoying the company of this kind and infuriating gentleman. It’s a million miles from where we started, a time where both of us hadn’t much of a clue about magazine production and spent months shuffling papers and trading tall tales and palpitating with naked fear. Somewhere in the middle there we started working brilliantly.

Dools is someone who’s well-known for his quick humour, great writing and bird knowledge: talents you’d think would give most people a giant head, particularly when trumpeted on radio or telly. I have a feeling though, he’s the same person he was at age 10: hilarious, bursting with facts, a little awkward.

What not everyone knows is that he’s one of the few who’s genuinely sensitive towards other people’s feelings. Every crazy twitcher who bailed him up got the same quiet courtesy, benefit of the doubt and the requisite 30 mins to hmm and nod, and interject with things like “well I’m not entirely convinced it was a juvenile Eurasian Coot, the cloaca was clearly dusky brown”. A rotating team of fans, stalkers and loons would ring up with regularity to have their piece, and hours later I’d be red carding frantically, asking the receptionist to block all calls and mouthing GET THE FUCK BACK TO WORK to no avail. And you know what? Unlike some people I’ve worked with, he didn’t get where he is by being a prick. Such characters are as rare as Night Parrots.

Working in such close proximity meant that not all was smooth sailing, and when he got the sharp side of my tongue during busy times the only response I’d get would be a reproachful look and long, meaningful silence. It’s hard to rail at such a person, and in 2 ½ years we never had a spat – usually because I’d have to back off and simmer down. I also knew I was working with someone who’d never bullshit me, needlessly pump up my tyres or bag me out behind my back (again, refer to rare Painted Snipes, Jacky Winters, Western Ground Parrot etc) – and if I was going off half-cocked or foamed at the mouth, Dools would give me the drum, with the same civility.

Over the years we shared quite a bit about our lives, blithely ignoring the quieter and more studious people working in the same room to natter about student days, radio gossip, l’amour and more. I don’t have a brother, but if I did I imagine it would be someone like Dools: full of dirty jokes, comic one-upmanship, weird asides and teasing, someone who drives me crackers but above all someone who has my back. In the work environment I had to tolerate, this was priceless.

We started the job with a twitch to see a Powerful Owl in the city, and finished on a twitch to the Royal Park wetlands over lunchtime. Although I always knew it, it was only then, outside in the sunshine, with the White-browed Scrubwrens chittering in the brush, I was truly struck by what an astonishing fund of birding information this man is. Dools is someone who can transform a dag around a non-descript wasteland into an interesting jaunt worth writing about, with many long pauses, enthusiastic pishing, sentences like “and here we have our gallinules”, who has knowledge that comes out of him like others breathe.

Ah I will miss his long LONG tales of show business, his soft tread around the office, the endless facts that have lodged in his brain for years, yet fly gaily in one of my ears and out the other. His last note on my card was typical Dools: sarcastic yet sweet and above all highly bird nerdy: “Boo I’ll miss you like I miss OBPs”.

Now go buy one of his books: some will make you cry, but all will make you shit your pants laughing.

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