Almanac Life: Crossing The Road





I’m in the office wearing a mask, looking like Ben Hall. But I’m not covered in real mud and dirt and calamity like he was. One of my great grandmothers arrived here not long after Ben Hall was roving the dirt roads of the colonies. I’ve seen a picture of her. Her look was sure and steady, but a furtiveness lurked close to the surface. Perhaps she wasn’t sure of herself but of her burden, her life, what she must do. Those generations had a certainty in the fragility of their existence. Now we seem to have a fragility in the certainty of ours.


“Lock down again,” someone says poking their head into my office. “Starting at 8pm.”


I gather up files and notes and papers and the laptop. What else will I need? Others in the office go into the now familiar drill. Pack bags, wave goodbye. Only two more lock downs until Christmas. Ha! We laugh and depart.


The roads are full. People dashing before dashing is outlawed again. Perhaps shops? Or schools? Or the hairdresser? Hoping to avoid the bushrangers.


I look at some faces behind the wheels. They’re blank. Blank resignation worn where once there may have been a smile. Or a frown. Something. Now nothing. The radio is on. Absently I switch to Spotify. A Pogues song. Fairytale of New York. Its appropriate. Melancholy. Fun. Direct. Irish. Hand in glove. Love it.







“So happy Christmas. I love you baby. I can see a better time when all our dreams come true.”


Yeah right.


Home again. Eyebrows raised as the news plays on the TV. We don’t need words. We’ve been here before. I go to the front room and put my laptop on the makeshift desk upon which I will take phone calls, make decisions, tax plan for clients, rub my eyes, scratch my head, determine outcomes, for at least the next week.


A desk is important. People’s lives are changed by decisions made at desks.


“You’re insolvent” I might have to tell someone in the next week. Or month. Their world will crash. They won’t care that I arrived at this conclusion at a makeshift desk or a real one. It makes no difference. Effort has come to nothing. Dreams smashed like a café avocado. Perhaps houses lost. How will we feed the kids? Self- worth will be questioned.  Relationships strained tight like a Talakhadze clean and jerk. These people won’t be in the covid statistics. But the virus might kill them as sure as hell.


I look out the window. The bees are busy this morning. A winter sun sprinkles their little home. A worker bee emerges from the opening to the hive and drops a drone out onto the ground. Discarded. Surplus to requirements. The drone buzzes in the dirt. It rolls over. Its legs flick. Life leaves it as I watch. The bees have their own battles to fight. I wonder if they gaze through our windows at times?


The Pogues are still playing on my mind. I’m taken back to July 1987. I’m in the Connemara on the west coast of Ireland. The music has taken me back there. The sun is warm on my back. A road stretches before me; a grey strip of bitumen that has the rainbow at its end, surely? I’m surrounded by green. Blessed I am. Alone. Just me, a pipe full of tobacco, and my backpack. I’m young. I light my pipe and recline in the grass. I’m waiting for a car to hitch a ride up the road but also waiting for the next adventure. A pub lock-in tonight maybe? Lashings of Guinness, laughing, new friends, free souls, effortless joy. Tears drip down my cheeks. I remember it well. I still don’t know why I cried. It was easy. Funny that I laughed too. With tears. Unfettered freedom is dangerous.


New people are in my life now. Peter Bol. Rohan Browning. Stewart McSweyn. Ariane Titmus. Names with smiles and medals and achievements and personalities. We don’t see the work they’ve done. Dark winter mornings running or swimming or lifting weights and tearing muscles. Failing. Repeatedly failing. And falling and crying and questioning it all. Is it worth it? That’s where success is born. In that question. And the answer isn’t always yes. They lie in their beds at night aching all over. But the fire burns. They keep going. And I can’t look away as they risk it all on my TV.


Once I roved and now I am locked in. That bitumen road in the Connemara is still there. I can see it. I can almost feel it. I’d like to think a piece of me is there too. The dead match I tossed into the ancestral grass may still lay where I left it. When the world was young and without boundaries. A few tears may dwell in the soil.


The phone rings. An unsteady voice is on the other end.


“Mate,” he says, “I need to come and see you.” I’ve been expecting the call for a while now. Each lock down has been another lash for this bloke. Hanging on. Is it worth it?


I hang up and lean across the desk to flick open the shutters. People walk past our house to the park opposite.


“We just have to get across the road,” says a woman to her child.


Yes indeed.




The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in the coming weeks. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order right now HERE



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About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Cracking read Dips! Moments like this are perfect for quiet contemplation and reflection of more innocent times when such events were unimaginable.

  2. Poignant. All of the questions and none of the answers. Same as all of us.
    Damned if we do. Damned if we don’t. Only the names of the damned change.

  3. Kevin Densley says

    Lovely, reflective piece, Dips.

    Really good writing.

  4. Much to consider in your piece Dips. That sense of freedom is magnificent. Things close in on all of us at the moment. It is always so – but some things make us mroe aware of it Ireckon

    I know those Connemara roads. I am imaging one with tufts of yellow heather on either side.

    So many images in your piece. But the most unlikely one is of you smoking a pipe. Photos please.

  5. Thanks for the comments lads. When things close in on me I often go back to Ireland in my imagination.. Open spaces. Endless fun. Good people. Chasing the ancestors which is like chasing your own existence.

    JTH probably no photos ? I’ll check. They’d be tucked away in the wardrobe with dusty maps and trinkets. The pipe accompanied me along many roads.


  6. Have you still got the pipe?

    Very Irish-writerly.

  7. Haven’t got the pipe. Fell in love with it so tossed it into a bin in Oxford. Probably a good decision.

  8. Kevin Densley says

    Re ‘Irish-writerly’, Dips – have you got an excellent light tenor singing voice? Most Irish writers seem to possess that, according to a notion I’ve heard! (I think this picks up on the mistaken cliché that all Irish people can sing.)

  9. Kevin I’ve never really tested my singing voice. I was briefly in a school choir as a kid. The choir never got going in any substance. My voice improves in proportion to the quantity of Guinness consumed.

  10. Kevin Densley says

    Ah yes (in relation to your last sentence), I think we can all identify with that, especially those of us with Irish ancestry! I have Irish on both the maternal and paternal sides of my family.

  11. Luke Reynolds says

    Wonderful writing Dips.

    I haven’t been able to look away from the Olympics either. Had a bad feeling they’d be a disaster and maybe not even completed. The Games have been a triumph.

    Got my second vaccination yesterday. A relief, felt great. But as the today’s cases in Victoria show, sadly we are a long way from crossing the road.

  12. A lovely melancholic feel washes over this, Dips.
    Old mate, those of us with Irish heritage can particularly identify with your memories, I reckon.

  13. Thanks Luke, Smoke.

    Yes Luke it seems away off but if we get vaccinated it might resolve a lot of issues.

    Smoke – I think Irish people love being melancholy. It’s a natural state! Not that I’m Irish!

  14. E.regnans says

    I find that a beautiful piece of writing, Dips.
    The great unfolding mystery.
    It’s gone down a real treat on this bumpy road beneath me.
    sláinte, man.

  15. Cheers E.Reginans. Appreciate the comment.

    I hope your road is flat, smooth and interesting.

  16. Beautiful piece Dips. Love the window you have opening onto the view of the world outside too.

  17. Thanks Kate. There are a lot of people looking out of windows around Melbourne at present!

  18. Great piece Dips. Much to ponder. Enjoyed listening to this on ‘Fairytale’ recently-

    It’s a great series in which different, mostly ordinary folk talk about their connections to song/ music. The other on Joni Mitchell’s River is also terrific.

  19. Cheers Mickey.

    I’ll click the link and check it out.

  20. Yvette Wroby says

    Hi Dips I love your meanderings … I often feel right by your side in your stories… thanks so much

  21. Thanks for the comment Yvette.

    Great to know that the Knackers are by your side! Hope you’re travelling well.

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