Nobody could have accurately predicted just how chaotic and destructive 2020 would be. A year with a pandemic that has killed 1.7 million people as of time of writing, an election for the leader of the free world lasting over a week, and losses of jobs and livelihoods. It’s hard to be even slightly retrospective on a year like this. Hindsight is blind when you’re hit by a truck like 2020.
This is my best attempt to journal what has happened in 2020 and how I’ve learnt from it and what I’ve gained. Every bit of pain is a learning experience I believe.
Our digital world
I started this year studying journalism in person at TAFE in Sydney. I learnt a routine and day-to-day life after years of being stuck in the confines of my own home and hospitals. I got to experience education and understand more about myself and who I want to be professionally.
Then, everything went online. Our lives cut down into makeshift digital versions which seemed like an uncanny valley interpretations of our normal lives.
I had never really realised just how heavily online we are until the lockdown from March-July. There were some really incredible connections I managed to make as a result of lockdown and I think a lot of people gained a lot. Now there really is an actual precedent for having drinks with friends over zoom who are from the other side of the world. We learnt new ways to keep in contact in incredibly testing circumstances.
Through games as well I also made new friends during the pandemic and that was something special as well, I’ve been able to meet some really great people from the comfort of home.
Something about kindness
In the peak of lockdown madness it really was feeling like an apocalyptic movie. Every few days you’d have to do a commando raid of the supermarkets for supplies and would pit yourself up against others for a chance to get some bog roll. It was a weirdly competitive environment which often felt like every man for themselves.
Due to being on a pension I was able to get slightly easier access to supermarkets thanks to the great initiative of earlier opening hours for those who need help. One of those days I lost my pension card in the midst of all the panic and excitement inside the supermarket. After realising this I bolted back into the Woolworths and thankfully, someone had handed in my card and saved my bacon big time. A huge act of kindness in times like these which has stuck with me. It would’ve been incredibly easy to just take the card and use it for themselves.
Thank god for music
I listened to a lot of music this year. According to my Spotify Wrapped I listened to 191,562 minutes of music throughout 2020. That’s 3192 hours. I had music on pretty much all day everyday and it helped tremendously. The lockdown element also allowed me to explore new artists and music altogether. During lockdown I got into Arcade Fire, Belle & Sebastian, The Beths, The Breeders, and doubled down on bands I already loved like The Killers and Placebo.
I learnt from this that so much music is out there and before the pandemic I really was listening to very little of it. It’s been a push to really discover more music and try stuff out. We live in a golden age of entertainment and music streaming is a huge part of it.
By the time lockdown started to ease everyone had planned to see people and finally have some face-to-face interactions. From there onwards friendships became increasingly important as a way through the unease of the world.
I’ve been really lucky to have some incredible friends who helped me dramatically throughout the year. A particular standout memory was one of the first times we were able to get together as group it just felt right. Drinks, banter, and months of backed up conversation.
Your friends stick by and stick on you like a rash, but a nice one. I learnt just how important all of them are in my life particularly since lockdown and how much they mean to me. I’ve got some bloody great mates who’ve been there for me throughout the year.
We’ve faced challenges together as friends and gotten through them together. As certain politicians would say, how good is a piss-up with your mates?
This is definitely a large attempt to sugarcoat what has happened this year for me, but being relentlessly negative about 2020 wouldn’t be healthy. A lot of it was pretty shithouse, everyone knows it. At time of writing, cases of COVID-19 are increasing across Sydney and while I’m gutted everyday we increase in cases, I know if worst comes to worst I’ll be prepared to get through it. Probably.
I’ve been beat up, I’ve been thrown out But I’m not down, no I’m not down I’ve been shown up, but I’ve grown up And I’m not down, no I’m not down I’m Not Down – The Clash
I’m still mourning the loss of my health, my lovely cat Martini, and normal life. But I’m gonna remain as positive as possible in day-to-day life and as negative as possible with every COVID test I do.
Next year will be hopefully better. I’m planning to resume my diploma in journalism in February, travel around Australia as much as I can, and try and improve my health where I can. Here’s to the start of a new roaring 20s in 2021.
Over the creative process for music making, many songs either die out early on, get recorded but never released, or end up a bonus tracks on special edition releases of albums.
I’m a really big fan of bands releasing b-sides and rarities compilations. It’s a really interesting look into how the art is made and what artists (and their labels) believe to be their best or most marketable versus more obscure or experimental.
The Killers’ compilation album Sawdust is a huge favourite of mine. It’s their (so far) only collection of singles, covers, b-sides, rarities, and remixes. Released in 2007 in between the releases of Sam’s Town and Day & Age, it’s essential listening for fans.
There’s a few fan favourites from Sawdust – a cover of Shadowplay by Joy Division, the conclusion of the Hot Fuss Murder TrilogyLeave The Bourbon On The Shelf, as well as Tranquilise featuring Lou Reed. Alongside those are covers of the country classic Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town and Dire Straits’ Romeo and Juliet.
Compilation albums are not everybody’s cup of tea but to me they’re incredibly intriguing. Other ones of note to me are Placebo’s covers (Covers) album and Oasis’ The Masterplan album.
Aside from the obvious element of “more content from a band you like” in support of my love of compilation albums, there’s a few more layers to it for me.
Covers are tribute
You don’t cover a song unless you really love it or think you can put a fresh spin on it. It’s like remaking a movie. The line between paying respect to an artist and also pissing all over their legacy is tough, but when done correctly it is perfect. In Sawdust, the cover of Shadowplay is such a love letter to Joy Division and New Order it’s as clear as day.
Something the Shadowplay cover does really well for me as a big fan of the original is it changes it up enough to make it unique and different. The original is brooding and much less of a song you can dance to, but highly impactful because of how strong the voice of Ian Curtis is. Killers frontman Brandon Flowers is definitely not similar to Curtis in singing style. But that helps the cover work and become transformative. The Killers cover is a bit of a bop and something you can dance to. It’s an interesting marriage of Joy Division and its successors in the genre of new wave.
Seeing a band live is usually because they’ve released a new album and they want to promote it as much as possible. Non-singles off previous albums are rarely played and become rarities to hear live, and fewer covers of other artists work will be played.
In a compilation album, it’s a chance for those rarities to be heard and given much more of a spotlight. Tracks like Under The Gun, All The Pretty Faces, and Sweet Talk come into their own and outright become peoples favourite tracks.
I think it also adds extra hype to when you do see a band live and they play one of those rarities. Before that you probably had heard in the past they’d played that song live in a concert 20 years ago, but now it’s back! Hearing Muse for example play Glorious live was really extra exciting because I’d previously only heard it as a b-side.
Beauty of backlog and experimenting
Bands outright experimenting in musical style for major studio album releases is a constant see-saw battle. Do you try and expand your audience by trying a new style and potentially adding another string to your bow? Or do you keep doing what made your audience follow you and not risk changing it up too much and upsetting fans?
Well, that’s a bonus of a compilation album. Your experimental tracks can get airtime allowing fans to listen to it without the expectation and high stakes associated with a major album release. Sure, sometimes you’ll be glad that they never decided to experiment with that style again, though sometimes they really strike a goldmine.
I’m really passionate about compilation albums existing more. I love what they can do and what they give out to the world. Constantly I’m in hope of The Killers releasing another Sawdust because with what they’ve produced so far so much of it hits for me I’d love to know what the stuff that wasn’t deemed good enough for an album is like.
They say a watched pot won’t ever boil Well I closed my eyes and nothing changed Just some water getting hotter in the flames Arcade Fire – 7 Kettles
Time is nebulous. 15 minutes can feel like 5 when you’re having a good time and 50 minutes when you’re not. Waiting. We do it most of our lives and we do it to (usually) get to the good time. Though not always. Sometimes, you’re waiting for something you don’t want to be near or even think about.
Hospitals are sort of the king of waiting and have a special monopoly on waiting room pain. The whole concept of waiting rooms seems sadistic. You’re so close to your goal (to see your doctor), mere metres away from their room, and you have to sit down and just patiently try not to lose your mind. It’s mind-numbing.
I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster for the last month or so, as sort of hinted at in my last article. Since discovering my liver was nowhere near as healthy as previously understood I’ve really hit a snag. I feel as if I’ve been living a lie.
Since a redo of my liver fibrosis scan I’ve been stuck waiting with dread. First it was waiting to get some special blood tests done. Then it was to get the results of those. Then it was get an MRI done. Then it was to discover the findings. This has been about a solid month of waiting.
The uncertainty really has been haunting me. Not knowing what is going on in your own body is a horrifying.
I learnt yesterday that I have been diagnosed (without much doubt) with primary sclerosing cholangitis. It was a crippling blow. Over a period of 10-20 years my liver will slowly begin to stop working and I will require a liver transplant.
The only thing I could really feel after being told this was numbness. Maybe part of me knew it deep down for years. But it didn’t make it any easier. Knowing too that there is essentially nothing I can do to help this is the real kicker. There’s no known effective medication to take and all research on it is pretty new. For the next however-many-years I’ll have this hanging over me. It’s daunting.
But there is always a bit of hope. I’ve been waiting for the bad times a lot lately, so hopefully that just means there’s good times around the corner for me. No use wallowing over a kettle that hasn’t yet fully boiled.
I’m a vengeful person. Not in like a medieval feud way, but more in a “I am terrible with coming to peace with people who have done very very slightly annoying things” way. I swear I’m not a serial killer in the making.
I have a list on my phone called the “vendetta list”. It’s mostly just dumb things like the pub that didn’t allow my friend in once, our neighbour who complains about our cats, and people who do truly reprehensible things – like playing albums on shuffle. Proper war crime territory.
Recently there has been a new addition. A doctor who incorrectly performed a liver fibrosis scan on me and screwed it up so badly it’s amazing. But this isn’t about that. No, it’s about what to do with anger and frustration. Particularly with things out of your control.
Since finding out how badly this guy screwed up the test I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster. Though the emotion is mostly frustration.
Here’s what I found helped me as I attempted to channel my emotions into something.
A popular method to alleviate stress, frustration, anger, and channel it into something productive. I think it definitely works. When you’re in that proper angry mood you can really smash out a workout. I found at my angriest I finished 3 minutes quicker during my usual routine on the bike.
However, it also makes you smell terrible afterwards and nobody likes somebody who humblebrags about their workout routine, so this method gets a C- from me.
There’s two different paths I go down when I’m frustrated and I want to play a game to do something about that frustration. One is the 1993 classic first-person shooter DOOM, the other is the farming simulation game Stardew Valley.
DOOM is a classic. A truly multigenerational unifier and a game that has stood the test of time. You play as a space marine stuck on Mars who has to kill demons, traverse through Hell, kill more demons, and save the world. A quintessential anger management game and one that has served me well since high school.
One thing I appreciate about it is that while you are in this fast-paced game, you also must think strategically about your resources and work out the best way to make your way around a map. The joy and relief I receive from completing a tough encounter in DOOM is unlike any other. It turns anger into relief.
Stardew Valley is an incredible independent game released in 2016 that is about building your own farm, raising animals, fishing, and forming relationships with the townsfolk. A universally popular game and one I played a lot of during the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown.
It gave me proper tangible goals to achieve, feeling of accomplishment, and a world that was welcoming and refreshingly bright. When you’re angry, sometimes a good panacea is something cute and wholesome. A bright, pixel-y, and gorgeous palate cleanser.
Unfortunately, video games are for nerds and therefore they get a D for dork.
Sometimes you just gotta throw it back to being an edgy 14 year-old who just discovered My Chemical Romance and Green Day and go full 00s emo.
My music for being pissed off is not that diverse if I’m honest. I just throw a stack of peak-drug-use Placebo music on and some Apocalypso-era stuff from The Presets.
Placebo’s opening track of their eponymous debut album is usually my go-to. Come Home is so incredibly edgy it both works as angry music and simultaneously makes me laugh. The line “give a monkey half a brain and still he’s bound to fry it” is so funny to me it could be from a Paul Kelly or Courtney Barnett song.
A lot of the music from The Presets album Apocalypso is very much of its era. Released in 2008, it’s a reaction to state of Australia and particularly critical of John Howard’s government and their policies on asylum seekers.
I’m here with all of my people Locked up with all of my people So let me hear you scream if you’re with me
The most famous track of theirs is My People, which was a hit in Australia and tackled the offshore processing policy from the perspective of an asylum seeker. It’s a protest song and about inciting a riot, standing up for your basic human rights. Boy isn’t it good that all of that stuff is a thing of the past and totally still not topical in 2020?
However I don’t believe in putting political messages in your music because I don’t understand how art works, so music gets an F for forced diversity.
In seriousness, I really believe that you need to use anger and frustration and not shame yourself for feeling those emotions. Allow yourself to wallow in them for just a little bit. Otherwise, you bottle it all up and end up abusing the poor Uber Eats guy.
Anger management has a bad association with just being about guys who punch holes in their walls when I think everybody should talk about it more and what they can do when they’re angry. Culturally there isn’t much discussion on anger as an emotion that we all feel. It’s made very alien when it’s all part of the mental health sphere, really.
And discussion over mental health is always important.
An ongoing meme and joke I have with family and friends is the term “colonoscopy with a GoPro”. It’s my Instagram bio, it was the original name for this blog, and a name I always just thought was amusing. It fits who I am pretty well I feel.
At close to 20 years old, I feel like I’m the colonoscopy connoisseur. I know it inside and out, so to speak.
During the last few weeks my health has rapidly deteriorated and we’ve come to the point we need more serious ways to examine what’s causing my current flare-up. Over the next few weeks I have a colonoscopy, liver biopsy, and a dosage increase of the biologic drug I’m taking. This is going to be a hectic few weeks and I’m definitely feeling a lot of stress from all of this. For the next fortnight it’s going to be a case of waiting it out until the tests are completed.
Since my surgery in February 2019 I don’t remember feeling this level of consistently unwell as I do now. My not-so-good health has shadowed over me for an extended period and it’s hard not to fall into a depressive slump.
My fear isn’t that they’ll find something during these tests – it’s that they won’t find anything at all.
Not finding anything is the most outright frustrating thing when you’re not well. For many years there was almost this perception amongst some specialists or doctors I was “imagining” the stomach pains I was facing everyday.
That logic ended up delaying my first surgery by probably 12-18 months, also delaying my life until I was an adult. People who know me well know I’m the absolute king of holding vendettas. It sounds meanspirited to say, but I completely hold vendettas against some specialists I’ve had in the past who didn’t treat me effectively. Is it healthy to hold these vendettas? Probably not, but it at least gives me some agency in how I’m feeling – a bit of a target for my frustration.
On the subject of colonoscopies though, I sorta love them? Alright let’s walk through the entire procedure.
The day before is the bad bit, no doubt. You have to take this absolutely horrible tasting extra strong laxative to clear your bowels for the colonoscopy and fast. Often marketed with a “pleasant lemon” flavour. It makes you shit like there’s no tomorrow.
The strength of the bowel prep is incredible, really. I have such vivid memories of the taste of the bowel prep as well that I just can’t drink lemonade or smell lemon without wincing and cringing.
Usually during the fasting period I distract myself with some sort of project. Sometimes LEGO, sometimes a video game, and sometimes just sleeping. Despite never being known for my large appetite, you don’t realise how much freedom you have to eat until you’re forced to fast.
The day of, depending on what time the procedure is, is usually straightforward. Get to the hospital day surgery, drop your dacks, put on a hospital gown, and wait. Before you go in you’ll get the anaesthetic which is probably the best bit if I’m honest. Being forced to sleep sounds horrifying but it’s amazing. You get to sleep during the day without feeling bad! What value! A depression nap but productive!
Waking up afterward is surreal. You take a while to adjust and usually for the next 12 hours you’re a bit out of it. Out of all the medical procedures I have to get done fairly often (once every year or two), it’s probably my favourite. I know it all really well now.
I’ve been asked in the past how I manage and do with blood tests and it’s a learning thing. As a child I was terrified of them, I’d have to be held down by several nurses to get blood and I was traumatised by them for so long.
Some time after turning 11 or 12 and them becoming so common, I got more comfortable with the situation. By the time I was a teenager, I had enough tricks that got me through even the longest and most drawn out blood tests.
One of them is fairly simple – I focus on song lyrics in my head. Particularly one from a song by The Killers. “This temporary flesh and bone” from Goodnight, Travel Well. Sounds morbid, but it puts things into perspective for me. No matter how much pain or how uncomfortable I am I know this is temporary. The pain and discomfort will not last forever and I will be stronger mentally from each ordeal. I keep a photo of myself from right after I had surgery in 2019 in my phone so I can remember what I’ve fought against in the past and won against, even if it’s just a temporary win sometimes.
The other is to think of funny mental images like a doctor doing a colonoscopy with a GoPro.
Since deferring from my studies until the end of COVID-19, I’ve had a lot more time on my hands to relax, focus on a bit more leisure, and clear my head of the complete insanity that has been 2020.
It’s been incredibly hectic and often I’ve found myself needing to shut off from the overwhelming grim reality we’re currently facing. Even with New South Wales (at time of writing) doing well with cases, life hasn’t truly returned to normal, and I doubt it will ever truly be “normal”. This is the new normal.
I’ve found solace in the last 6-7 months in rediscovering old hobbies and doubling down on friendships. Bonds with both hobbies and friends have become stronger during these (and yes I’m going to say the cliché line) unprecedented times.
A particular hobby I’ve very recently gotten back into in a big way is LEGO. I grew up with LEGO, it was pretty much all I needed in life as a child. Every birthday, Christmas, gift, was LEGO related. I’ve gone in and out of LEGO buying since becoming a teenager, but it’s always there in my mind.
My relationship with little plastic pieces has been important throughout my life. During my many hospital visits, medical procedures, surgeries, loss of loved ones, and tough periods in school – LEGO was there. When I had my first surgery in October 2012 what kept me motivated and happy was knowing that back at home I had LEGO to build. On my day releases before and after surgery I’d dedicate time to building sets and it was a happy place.
As I’ve matured, that feeling of a happy place when building has probably only increased and become more strong. During my second surgery, for which I was in hospital over my birthday, I was comforted knowing I had something to do while recovering.
That year I got a set called the Old Fishing Store, which had 2000 pieces. I love the aesthetic of Maine and New England seaside towns so this was a perfect fit. It’s still one of my favourite sets I own, partly for sentimental reasons of it being a set I can pinpoint and say “this is proof Jamie survived surgery and was better off for it”.
I mostly like buying stuff that looks good on display as I’ve gotten older. As anyone who’s been inside my bedroom or even just around my house would know, there’s a lot of stuff we have on display. It makes me feel at home.
Earlier this year for my birthday I got my first Modular Building – a Bookshop, from a series of expert level LEGO sets. They’re all large and over 2000 pieces. I recall building it being one of the best weekends I’ve had to myself.
I bought two more from that series since then and my god they’re addictive. The right level of challenge, incredibly satisfying builds, and usually 6+ hours to build. I built the sets over a series of days so I could spread out that enjoyment as much as possible.
When I build, I put my phone on Do Not Disturb, put music on, and fully focus on what I’m doing. No outside distractions. Proper me time that lasts a good amount of time, allowing me to both build and think about things in life. Highly therapeutic.
Even better, my last two builds have coincided with the release of the new Killers album – Imploding The Mirage. I love the album so far and played it constantly when building. I can now doubly associate that album with brilliant experiences.
The building periods really helped me clear my head and gave me time to seriously think and find out things about myself.
For some people, LEGO is probably seen as childish or just a children’s toy. While I agree LEGO is usually predominately designed for children, who cares. Open yourself up and allow yourself to reexperience that childlike wonder of building LEGO. Put on some music, shut off from the world, and just build. You won’t regret it. In grim times in which being aware of the world around you is incredibly important and also daunting, you need time to escape that.
And yes, my bank account is not looking so good after rediscovering LEGO again…
Joy Division’s music was always filled with a very pessimistic, jaded view on love and relationships – shaped by Ian Curtis and his failing marriage. The lyrics downbeat and never about falling in love as much as falling out of love, that’s if they even wrote about relationships. Much of the tracks off the seminal work Unknown Pleasures reflect the misanthropic and nihilistic view Curtis had towards his own existence.
Tracks like Shadowplay reflect that he felt his life, like hand puppets in a literal shadowplay, was a show for everyone but the one performing.
After his tragic death in 1980, remaining Joy Division members formed a new band – New Order. Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris were joined by Gillian Gilbert who had previously been a last minute replacement for Curtis during gigs.
New Order’s sound is incredibly different to that of their predecessor, with it going from gothic, downbeat rock to synth pop with an often uplifting spirit. When the music of Joy Division viewed love often in a negative light, New Order use it to really tug on heartstrings and tell earnest, raw anecdotes of relationships.
New Order’s take on love has always been one of interest to me – the way they’re often able to express emotions and tell stories in such a bright and well intentioned way. The giddy nervousness for early love expressed in Temptation, the jaded but sincere Age of Consent about nearing the end, to the philosophical Superheated which tackled with looking back on relationships in hindsight.
Temptation is particularly interesting to me. The song’s way of looking at how we develop crushes – or infatuation – I think is really interesting and well expressed.
A heaven, a gateway, a hope Just like a feeling I need, it’s no joke And though it hurts me to treat you this way Betrayed by words I’d never heard, too hard to say
The hope and feeling of finding someone that sparks that sort of feeling is an incredible one. Most people in life strive towards it. It’s an unbelievable sensation that powers people on.
I read the “though it hurts me to treat you this way” as sort of a statement of how an infatuation on other people can end up being a negative thing and causing you to do dumb things and act in stupid ways. Once you fall for someone it’s hard to undo it and you get tunnel vision for that person.
Oh, up, down, turn around Please don’t let me hit the ground Tonight, I think I’ll walk alone I’ll find my soul as I go home Up, down, turn around Please don’t let me hit the ground Tonight, I think I’ll walk alone I’ll find my soul as I go home
Please don’t let me hit the ground – don’t give me the reality check – don’t make me lose this feeling. Whatever you do, let me stay in this bubble of infatuation.
Each way I turn, I know I’ll always try To break this circle that has been placed around me From time to time, I find I’ve lost some need That was so urgent to myself, I do believe
A point of realisation around the narrator. Realising just how often this seems to happen to them and how much it ends up meaning for them each time. A relentless cycle, which can be viewed as both a tragic tale and an uplifting one. Is it healthy to require this sort of feeling constantly? What is life like without this feeling?
Oh, you’ve got green eyes, oh, you’ve got grey eyes Oh, you’ve got blue eyes Oh, you’ve got green eyes, oh, you’ve got blue eyes Oh, you’ve got grey eyes And I’ve never seen anyone quite like you before No, I’ve never met anyone quite like you before
This is one of my all-time favourite verses from a New Order song. I think it perfectly summarises what the song is about, completely nailing the sentiment and emotion. You can get an exact idea of what it’s saying without explanation.
Oh, it’s the last time, oh, it’s the last time Oh, it’s the last time, oh, it’s the last time Oh, it’s the last time And I’ve never met anyone quite like you before No, I’ve never met anyone quite like you before
The outro to the song, which leaves it on an interesting note. It’s simple but incredibly effective. I really love how this song is able to express the feeling of infatuation so well.
Age of Consent
Won’t you please let me go These words lie inside they hurt me so And I’m not the kind that likes to tell you Just what I want to do I’m not the kind that needs to tell you Just what you want me to
I saw you this morning I thought that you might like to know I received your message in full a few days ago I understood every word that is said And now that I’ve actually heard it You’re going to regret
A very poignant song to me, Age of Consent is about a failing relationship which both parties want to end but neither has the strength to cut it off.
And I’m not the kind that likes to tell you Just what you want me to You’re not the kind that needs to tell me About the birds and the bees
Both of them are emotionally no longer in the relationship, and I think the “birds and the bees” is about infidelity on both of their parts- or at least suspected infidelity. They don’t have the same level of love and trust anymore. It’s just a husk of what they once were.
But at the end of it all, they’ll still miss each other. It’s a much more Joy Division feeling song lyrically than New Order- it reminds me heavily of Love Will Tear Us Apart Again.
I’ve lost you I’ve lost you I’ve lost you I’ve lost you
Echoing out as the song ends, “I’ve lost you” is the gut punch to the song.
The human brain is great at making attachments to people and things, but struggles heavily with trying to cut off those same feelings.
Break-ups, cutting contact, ending friendships or any relationship are all incredibly tough. It’s one of the hard things in life we all end up experiencing and is a universal experience yet we all respond differently to it. It’s hard not to keep some level of affection and feeling for people in your life who were once close to you but no longer are.
The song is just so human and I find it fascinating how it manages to tell its story.
A collaboration between New Order and The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers, Superheated is the final track of the album Music Complete.
If these songs were all part of one same story or character arc for the same narrator, Superheated would be the narrator years later reflecting on their life philosophically and the relationships they had. Sung as a duet between Bernard Sumner and Brandon Flowers, it’s a pretty perfect marriage between New Order and Flowers’ style. My opinion is the duet element is meant to be about how the narrator felt during the break-up when he was younger (Brandon Flowers), and how he feels about it now as a much older man (Bernard Sumner).
Bernard Sumner: Sometimes I wake up and the sky is grey When you’re not here by my side I see your make up on the shelf In a photograph of someone else And it breaks me up like I don’t exist Did we ever love, did we ever kiss? Do you ever listen to what I have to say? As life unfolded that one short day
Some stage after his relationship, the narrator begins to try and analyse what their dynamic actually was like and if it was as great as they felt it was at the time. Doubts go through his mind and everything he remembers of their time together becomes hazy and clouded.
Bernard Sumner & Brandon Flowers: However you want it, it’s my desire Girl you’ve got me hanging like a bird caught on a wire We are so different, yet we’re the same Things that I remember, that I wish I could change
He’s still hooked on the memory and can’t forget. Part of him wonders if it would have ended differently if he made different choices or said things differently – it’s slightly haunting to him. Would putting himself as second priority in the relationship have saved it? The imagery of a “bird caught on a wire” is symbolic of restricted freedom, a lack of comfort and autonomy – he feels stuck emotionally.
The overlap of Sumner and Flowers for the chorus is important, it’s showing the thoughts that have stayed with him all this time and have never really gone away.
Bernard Sumner: Sometimes I wake up as angry as hell I feel deserted, I feel unwell But it’s not your fault, no not at all I was the reason for our downfall Sometimes I wake up when I’m alone As angry as hell because you’re gone
The anger and frustration of his own actions and what he did and didn’t do is all he can think about. Around this time, the narrator realises how much things were down to his error in his own mind. As an older man, he feels the loneliness of being without the other person. It’s the power of hindsight, really.
Bernard Sumner & Brandon Flowers: However you want it, it’s my desire Girl you’ve got me hanging like a bird caught on a wire We are so different, yet we’re the same Things that I remember, that I wish I could change You want your life back, girl I’m not a thief You told me that it’s over and that you were gonna leave
She’s gone and able to move on freely, but he can only hope for being at the stage that he can forget and truly move on.
Bernard Sumner & Brandon Flowers: Now that it’s over Now that it’s over Now that it’s over Now that it’s over Now that it’s over Now that it’s over It’s over, it’s over, it’s over
Just like the previous two songs analysed here, it has an outro which has a single phrase repeated. After the crescendo of the last chorus, it goes out to a really classic New Order bit of synth, fading out. Is the outro of songs having one repeated phrase just a motif of New Order, a conscious continuation of themes, or a big coincidence? I’m not sure, but it’s interesting to think about.
All three songs sound unique and have really different tones from the outset. It’s a great example of how bands can keep a similar sound over time but adapt it to different scenarios to get the most emotional reaction out of their listeners.
This “trilogy” of songs is a favourite of mine. I think it’s hard to not listen to them as three – when Temptation comes on shuffle, I’ll pretty much always go to Age of Consent, and then Superheated after that.
New Order’s writing around infatuation, love, and relationships is a strength. I don’t think many bands quite manage to hit these themes as well and as maturely as New Order do.
The 2000s were a defining generation for many genres, but particularly alternative rock. The grunge sound of 90s rock morphed into a more interesting amalgamation of 80s New Wave and 70s post-punk in the 2000s.
The Killers, born out of Nevada, were one of many bands that saw their rise in the era, with music which blended Britpop, New Wave, and kept an indie rock sound. Their first album, Hot Fuss, is widely considered one of the best debut albums of all time.
Aesthetically, The Killers owe a lot to New Order – and that’s just for their name. In the music video for New Order’s song “Crystal” it features a fictitious band called The Killers up against a screen projecting several colours in a faux concert setting.
Brandon Flowers, Mark Stoermer, Dave Keuning, and Robbie Vannucci took the name and ran with it. The music video for their hit Somebody Told Me is more than just a simple homage, it’s a statement of what inspired them.
New Order’s album Get Ready in particular definitely shapes the music of The Killers from Hot Fuss. Tracks like Crystal and 60 Miles An Hour have such a clear influence on the sound of The Killers’ debut album, I’d argue Get Ready is essential listening to truly understand The Killers.
For me, Hot Fuss is my favourite album of all time and has such a sentimental value to me. This was probably one of the first albums I fell in love with – I can’t remember a time in which I didn’t know this album and didn’t love it.
Hot Fuss isn’t just good because it’s filled with great tunes, it carries a great sense of teenage coming-of-age, growing up, relationships, and the experiences of being a teenager and young adult. Plus a bit of murder.
Two songs off Hot Fuss make up part of the “Murder Trilogy”, though there have been many fan theories that suggest there are more than 3 songs that tell the story- however The Killers themselves have confirmed there are only 3 songs in the saga.
But what exactly is the story told by Hot Fuss outside of the “Murder Trilogy”? It’s hard to exactly pinpoint it having one narrative, but instead I see it as a collection of different stories and experiences from different people. Each track has at least one of three themes: relationships, coming-of-age, and search for identity.
Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine
The album begins with a flashforward of our narrator being questioned and interrogated by police over the murder of his girlfriend – Jenny. He attempts to give his alibi in the first verse of the song. The song opens with the sounds of police scanners and helicopters, setting a moody midnight city aesthetic to the song.
We took a walk that night, but it wasn’t the same We had a fight on the promenade out in the rain She said she loved me, but she had somewhere to go She couldn’t scream while I held her close I swore I’d never let her go
The last two lines is an allude to him suffocating Jenny and murdering her, fairly clearly.
Tell me what you wanna know Oh, come on, oh, come on, oh, come on There ain’t no motive for this crime Jenny was a friend of mine So come on, oh, come on, oh, come on, oh
His defence is as simple as that: Jenny was a friend of mine, how could I have murdered her? The choice of saying “friend” instead of girlfriend is crucial as it points to our main character realising they were never really dating, it was more him with an unhealthy obsession. The story of this track becomes expanded upon later in Hot Fuss, and with a B-side.
The most well-known song on the album and one of the defining songs of the 2000s – Mr. Brightside is an important part of this story and album. It’s all about paranoia, jealousy, and crushes.
The narrator “Mr. Brightside” is a very, very relatable person. He’s an average guy in his youth who finds himself falling head over heels in love for someone. Whether or not our main character ever has a “girlfriend” to imagine losing is not really the point – it’s about how you can completely fall in love with someone and become obsessed with them despite there being nothing official. A one-sided crush. Most people have been this sort of person at some point, imagining yourself with that person and speculating endlessly to yourself about what your life could be. Unfortunately, it’s not about healthy speculation really, Mr. Brightside is torturing himself with it.
Coming out of my cage and I’ve been doing just fine Gotta, gotta be down because I want it all It started out with a kiss, how did it end up like this? It was only a kiss, it was only a kiss Now I’m falling asleep and she’s calling a cab While he’s having a smoke and she’s taking a drag Now they’re going to bed and my stomach is sick And it’s all in my head, but she’s touching his
Chest now, he takes off her dress now Let me go I just can’t look, it’s killing me And taking control
Mr. Brightside is someone who falls for people easily, gets very attached, over-analyses everything that person does, and leads a self-fulfilling prophecy that always ends in disappointment. Someone who falls in love on a first date.
And when someone like a Mr. Brightside does end up in a relationship, he self-sabotages everything with his paranoia.
Jealousy, turning saints into the sea Swimming through sick lullabies, choking on your alibis But it’s just the price I pay, destiny is calling me Open up my eager eyes, ’cause I’m Mr. Brightside
To be a Mr. Brightside is to be self-aware enough you have a problem, but completely lost on how to fix it. A fitting song in an album which has a subtext of coming of age and adolescence.
Smile Like You Mean It
The third track of Hot Fuss, and one of the four singles released off the album, Smile Like You Mean It is a look into nostalgia, growing up, and trying to disassociate from trauma I feel.
The imagery the lyrics invoke in me personally give me strong nostalgia of particularly being a child. The way everything seems so big and grand and wonderful, but as you grow up realise you must abandon that sense of wonder in order to be “grown up”.
I like to view the lyrics being said throughout the song as being different bits of advice given to our main character throughout his teen years.
Save some face, you know you’ve only got one Change your ways while you’re young Boy, one day you’ll be a man Oh, girl, he’ll help you understand
Save some face is a classic idiom meaning to try and regain reputation and standing after an embarrassing moment, which as any teenager can tell you, embarrassment and saving face is half the teenage experience.
The chorus of “smile like you mean it” is his attempt of dealing with the sensations of growing up, and learning to let go of his past and nostalgia. To live in the moment, and not allow yourself to be caught in that which has already happened.
The most poignant part of the song for me is the bridge, which does a better job detailing the feeling of nostalgia and how it can feel than I ever could:
And someone is calling my name From the back of the restaurant And someone is playing a game In the house that I grew up in And someone will drive her around Down the same streets that I did On the same streets that I did
You rarely ever know when you’ll do something for the last time ever. Like the last time you’ll ever visit a certain store, a friend, a family member, a restaurant, or a lover. Thinking about moments in my own past where I unknowingly said goodbye to something invokes evocative memories in my head, taking back to places and moments I’d long since forgotten.
Somebody Told Me
Another of the singles released from the album, Somebody Told Me is one of the most iconic songs by The Killers.
Somebody Told Me is a classic of the “heterosexual man singing about maybe having gay feelings and being unsure of himself” genre, which previously was heralded by Morrissey and his work with The Smiths. However this only makes up half of the double entendre of the track, the other meaning within it is very different…
It’s about creating things in the first place.
Breaking my back just to know your name Seventeen tracks and I’ve had it with this game I’m breaking my back just to know your name But heaven ain’t close in a place like this Anything goes but don’t blink, you might miss ‘Cause heaven ain’t close in a place like this I said, oh, heaven ain’t close in a place like this Bring it back down, bring it back down tonight (Ooh-ooh) Never thought I’d let a rumor ruin my moonlight
The relentless burn of attempting to write and create something only to find out you aren’t original enough. As a writer this resonates. The amount of times you feel you’ve caught lightning in a bottle and it hasn’t been, or you see someone get huge amounts of success with something you had tried to do is frustrating.
The “boyfriend” who looks like a “girlfriend” is his idea. He knows he has potential to make it and release a hit, he just hasn’t had one yet. Every creative person I know has this feeling in them – it can takes years to get noticed and even longer to be noticed and successful.
Well, somebody told me you had a boyfriend Who looked like a girlfriend That I had in February of last year It’s not confidential, I’ve got potential
The “song-writing” side of the song’s story is definitely only half of it though. The androgynous lover idea and gay subtext in the album stands out here in particular, alongside Andy, You’re A Star.
All These Things That I’ve Done
Known probably best for its iconic bridge of “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier”, ATTTID is similar in theme to Smile Like You Mean It. The third longest track on the album, it is a song I always have had a strong affinity for.
I wanna stand up, I wanna let go You know, you know; no, you don’t, you don’t I wanna shine on in the hearts of man I want a meaning from the back of my broken hand Another head aches, another heart breaks I’m so much older than I can take And my affection, well, it comes and goes I need direction to perfection, no, no, no, no
The lyrics reflect attempts to “grow up” and become an adult. The narrator unsure of himself, who he is, what he wants to do, or why he does the things he does. He’s a lost boy waiting to become a man. He’s incredibly indecisive.
For Flowers, part of his confusion with growing up was because of his background. A member of the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) he would have grown up under serious scrutiny for a lot of his emotions and desires. The song is like him trying to repent and make up for his failings to properly follow his religious beliefs, and an overwhelming sense of guilt.
Help me out Yeah, you know you got to help me out Yeah, oh, don’t you put me on the back burner You know you got to help me out, yeah
The “you” Flowers refers to in this song is God and religion. He feels like it must surely be able to show him the right way. But for others, I think the “you” will often be ourselves in a rhetorical sense.
And when there’s nowhere else to run Is there room for one more son? These changes ain’t changing me The cold-hearted boy I used to be
Part of why I think this song is so powerful is that, as a now adult man, I realise how accurately the themes of this song reflected my own teenage years. You want to be and do everything, but have no idea where to start. Your emotions and desires are all over the place and there isn’t a definitive way through this period of change.
Honestly, the song could be called Puberty Blues. Trying to find your identity can take a long time for people, and getting through your teenage years is a lot harder than people give it credit for.
I mean hey, you’ve got soul… but you’re no soldier… yet.
Andy, You’re A Star
There’s a lot of discussion and disagreement in Killers fan circles over what Andy, You’re A Star is about. Some claim it’s there to mock a high school bully of Flowers called Andy who made his school life miserable; others say it’s about a young man realising he might be gay with his idolisation of the school’s star athlete. Personally I think there’s truth in both.
On the field I remember you were incredible Hey, shut up, hey, shut up, yeah On the field I remember you were incredible Hey, shut up, hey, shut up, yeah On the match with the boys, you think you’re alone With the pain that you drain from love In a car with a girl, promise me she’s not your world ‘Cause Andy, you’re a star Get down, hey
I see it as Flowers being cynical about his high school bully and him having some weird idolisation of Andy’s skill and fame which crossed into adoration. Everyone had some sort of idol or person in their high school they at some level envied and wanted to be, and I think Andy is who a young Flowers wanted to be. Popular, athletically talented, well-respected.
Leave your number on the locker and I’ll give you a call Hey, shut up, hey, shut up, yeah Leave your legacy in gold on the plaques that line the hall Hey, shut up, hey, shut up, yeah On the streets, such a sweet face jumping in town In the staffroom, the verdict is in In a car with a girl, promise me she’s not your world
Looking into professional sports circles, a lot of young men end up crossing from having just a sports idol to someone who is more than that, a figure of immense adoration that might go further. As a football fan, I think it happens a lot. All you need to do is look at “Football Twitter” where people rarely use photos of themselves, instead choosing to “represent” their favourite player.
‘Cause Andy, you’re a star In nobody’s eyes but mine Andy, you’re a star In nobody’s eyes but mine Andy, you’re a star In nobody’s eyes In nobody’s eyes but mine
The refrain here with “in nobody’s eyes but mine” reads to me as Flowers recognising how everyone felt the same way towards Andy, yet for all that they didn’t really know why. Flowers definitely wrote the song in the form of a love letter to Andy, and with some other gay subtext in Hot Fuss as an album, I don’t think it’d be surprising if Flowers had a crush on Andy.
Allegedly, the “real life” Andy is now working at the same high school they both attended and is a gym teacher. This is probably one of the most cynical songs Flowers has ever written, it seems to be a real “up yours” type of song. A more petty form of revenge, really.
Much more of a dance song than any other track on the album, On Top is inspired heavily by Ibiza nightclubs and hearkens back to the influence of New Order on The Killers.
In the back, ah-ho, I can’t crack We’re on top It’s just a shimmy and a shake, ah-ho I can’t fake, we’re on top, we’re on top
On Top is filled with sexual innuendo and is pretty universally accepted to be about a one night stand. I see it as a continuation of the gay subtext throughout the album, and about a first ever one night stand with a man for the narrator. It’s a very straightforward song, and the innuendos don’t take much to decipher or notice.
The day is breaking, we’re still here Your body’s shaking and it’s clear You really need it, so let go And let me feed it, but you know That I’ve been down across a road or two But now I’ve found the velvet sun That shines on me and you
It isn’t until the bridge (which is repeated twice) however, that the song gets more of a narrative. The narrator is brutally describing why he goes for hook-ups, the appeal of them to him, and with “because I’m fine now” accepting the hook-up.
And we don’t mean to satisfy tonight So get your eyes off of my pride tonight ‘Cause I don’t need to satisfy tonight It’s like a cigarette in the mouth Or a handshake in the doorway I look at you and smile because I’m fine x2
Change Your Mind
Probably the only real “love song” on this album, Change Your Mind has such a shy energy to it. I think it’d be fair to pair this song with Mr. Brightside as being part of the same particular narrative.
It has a daydream feel about it as well, as a lot of the lyrics reflect how Mr. Brightside thinks. Our narrator is a mess. Burnt out but still in love with the idea of someone. He’s back on his self-fulfilling prophecy.
Racey days help me through the hopeless haze But my, oh, my Tragic eyes, I can’t even recognise myself Behind
Everytime he reaches this self-fulfilling prophecy, he always has just one question:
So if the answer is no Can I change your mind?
The difference is that this time, he might have met someone who he thinks has the same issues as him – another dreamer. Another cursed with elaborate fantasies… maybe.
Out again, a siren screams at half-past ten And you won’t let go While I ignore, that we’ve both felt like this before It starts to show
The siren in my view signifies the start of his new obsession with someone, and for once it seems like it might go somewhere.
Why aren’t you shaking? Step back in time Graciously taken Oh, you’re too kind
We’re all the same and love is blind The sun is gone before it shines
His dreams and hopes with this person are gone before they had a chance to completely take over his mental state – it’s another rejection.
Believe Me Natalie
The ninth track of the album, Believe Me Natalie is another one which has had many different things read into it by fans. A common belief is it’s about a dancer diagnosed with HIV/AIDs who works at the famous Studio 54 nightclub in SoHo, New York City.
The character of Natalie potentially having HIV/AIDs is not particularly vital to the story of the song though. It’s much more about being an optimistic artist struggling for survival. I think the usage of disco and nightclub terminology in the song is metaphorical of the struggle to get your art into the world.
Believe me, Natalie, listen, Natalie This is your last chance to find a go-go dance to disco now Please believe me, Natalie, listen Natalie This is your last chance to find a go-go dance to disco now Forget what they said in SoHo, leave the “Oh, no”s out And believe me, Natalie, listen Natalie This is your last chance
The last chance to make it big. To make something of yourself, to get yourself out into the world.
There is an old cliche under your Monet, baby Remember the arch of roses right above your couch? Forget what they said in SoHo, leave the “Oh, no”s out Yes, there is an old cliche under your Monet, baby
The old cliche under your Monet evokes imagery of artist Claude Monet’s Roses, hung above Natalie’s couch – perhaps her only possession to her name as a struggling artist. I picture her as a girl from a small town, who moved to the big city to try and make it, and lives in cramped conditions waiting ever so patiently to make it.
You left the station now to the floor with speculation What was it for? In that old hallway, Mum says, “Why don’t you stay? You’ve been away for a long time”
Her mum wants her to come home, to give up on her dream, and return to a life without fantasy. An acceptance of defeat, and to her, a loss of identity.
God, help me somehow There’s no time for survival left The time is now ‘Cause this might be your last chance to disco, oh-oh, oh-oh
Did Natalie ever make it? It’s hard to imagine so.
A personal favourite song from The Killers, and a brutal continuation of the “Murder Trilogy”, Midnight Show takes place before the events of Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine.
Set during the murder of Jenny, it’s a fast-paced and sleek song. The details of the relationship between the narrator and Jenny and what lead to this point is detailed in Leave The Bourbon On The Shelf, which is too important in analysis of Midnight Show to ignore…
Leave The Bourbon On The Shelf
Originally recorded in 2002, and rerecorded in 2006 for the B-sides and rarities compilation album Sawdust, Leave The Bourbon On The Shelf acts as the chronological beginning to the Murder Trilogy.
It’s very different in sound to JWAFOM and Midnight Show, more closely resembling Smile Like You Mean It or Believe Me Natalie. A garage rock song, it’s also reminiscent of stuff by the Dandy Warhols to me – very conversational in tone and lyrics.
Shaking like the Devil when she lets me go Got a new place, and how it’s so much better Falling over myself, the television’s on I turn it off and smile “Oh Jennifer, you know I always tried” Before you say goodbye… Leave the bourbon on the shelf
Our narrator is in a terrible state. We find out later on in the song he believes Jenny has been cheating on him with another man, which causes him to breakdown and fall into a drunken stupor.
Darling don’t you see I’m not satisfied Until I hold you tight Give me one more chance tonight And I swear I’ll make it right
The continued use of “held tight” is continued on in JWAFOM and Midnight Show – it’s how he ends up killing her – strangulation. Has Jenny actually cheated on him though, or is it, Mr. Brightside style, all in his head?
Jennifer, tell me where I stand And who’s that boy holding your hand? Oh, Jennifer, you know I always tried Before you say goodbye
He knows the relationship is doomed, but he can’t help but still feel an attraction to her and a fondness. His feelings of love and jealousy mix dangerously, and he decides if he can’t have her, nobody can.
Leave the bourbon on the shelf And I’ll drink it by myself And I never liked your hair Or those people that you lie with But I’m not satisfied until I hold you tight
He won’t be satisfied truly, until she’s dead, hoping it stops her from haunting his memories. Back to Midnight Show, however.
Midnight Show is immediately different in tone to Bourbon as it starts, with some synthesizers and fast beat. It’s as ruthlessly an efficient a song as our narrator is with his plans to murder Jenny. He knows what he’s come to do.
I know what you want I’m gonna take you a midnight show tonight If you can keep a secret I got a blanket in the back seat on my mind And a little place that sits beneath the sky She turned her face to speak but no-one heard her cry
What Jenny thinks is just a parked car scenario for sex is really all part of the narrators plan. To lure her into a false sense of security and make her scream – not out of pleasure however.
Make it go away without a word But promise me you’ll stay and fix these things I’ve heard
A crashing tide can’t hide a guilty girl With jealous hearts that start with gloss and curls I took my baby’s breath beneath the chandelier Of stars in atmosphere and watched her disappear
The two pre-choruses in the song sums up the struggle in the mind of the narrator. He thinks he could make all his suffering just disappear by killing her, letting it go away “without a word”, or try and give Jenny a chance to defend herself from accusations she doesn’t even know exist. He’s so fixed on it being true that she’s cheated on him nothing else matters.
If you can keep a secret Well, baby, I can keep it if you can keep a secret If you can keep a secret, I can keep a secret If you can keep a secret Well, baby, I can keep it if you can keep a secret
The outro to Midnight Show is our narrator’s remarks to her corpse. A darkly humorous ending to the song.
Everything Will Be Alright
Rarely played live, Everything Will Be Alright is the final track of Hot Fuss in almost all versions of the album. A sombre song which feels like a homage to songs like A Night Like This by The Cure, and Waiting For the Night by Depeche Mode.
Very minimalist with lyrics, the chorus is repeated throughout the song (the longest on the album as well). It’s an uplifting message for dark times, born out of struggles. Everything will be alright… eventually, our narrator tells himself.
I’m coming to find you if it takes me all night Wrong until you make it right And I won’t forget you At least I’ll try and run, and run tonight
The idea of the song continues a theme from earlier in the album, developing feelings for the idea of someone and becoming in love with the concept of being in love.
I wasn’t shopping for a doll To say the least, I thought I’d seen them all But then you took me by surprise I’m dreaming ’bout those dreamy eyes I never knew, I never knew So take your suitcase, ’cause I don’t mind And baby doll, I meant it every time You don’t need to compromise I’m dreaming ’bout those dreamy eyes I never knew, I never knew but it’s alright, alright
A lot of Hot Fuss is about this idea of falling in love with people easily, and knowing you do it to yourself but being unable to help. Everything Will Be Alright acts as a coda to the themes of the album, and particularly of songs like Mr. Brightside and Change Your Mind. A tragic tale of growing up and learning about yourself, your relationships, and life.
Hot Fuss is a really personally hitting album to me. In my high school years, Mr. Brightside was my anthem. It wasn’t until much later that I started realising why it hit home so much for me.
Finding out who you are as a teenager and growing up is incredibly difficult. Harder and harder as we become more reliant on social media and technology as major aids in our life. I don’t envy those who are becoming teenagers in the midst of the current world climate, but I offer to them to find solace in creativity and art.
I struggle to believe I’d be who I am without Hot Fuss and the guidance of The Killers’ music. They’re as much a part of me as my flesh and bones. It’s comfort music. I hope it does similar for other people.
In January 2020, I embarked on a roadtrip with 3 friends to drive from the inner west of Sydney down to Melbourne just before I started my Tafe course.
The purpose of the trip was to travel down to watch football (soccer), with us following our team Sydney FC away to Melbourne for the annual Australia Day-ish Big Blue. Some may say we were slightly nuts for not just catching a flight down, but to those I say where’s your sense of adventure?
The journey is just as good as the location, especially when you’re four young men faced with a surprising amount of freedom to be yourself and travel. A roadtrip is a really liberating experience. A roughly 10 hour trip from Sydney to Mornington was of course filled with banter, football talk, planning and music. There was a lot of different music played – Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia by The Dandy Warhols, and probably my stand-out memory – listening to Bruce Springsteen’s seminal album Born To Run.
The way music shapes how you see things around you is truly amazing. Bruce Springsteen’s grand ballads were the soundtrack to that trip to Victoria for me. The key moment I remember is when we were 3-4 hours away from Mount Martha where we would be staying. We were going through a classic grey day but driving on a mostly empty country roads through the grass and green of rural Victoria. Out the windows was some evocative imagery of deserted old country clubs, overgrown tennis courts, old towns, and the occasional kangaroo and lake. Past Wangaratta, Lima, Euroa, Seymour, and many more – the track playing as we passed through at that point was Born To Run. The sweeping scale of the song just fit the scene so well.
The trip wasn’t just about going to the football with my mates and getting pissed either – it was partly about reclaiming memories of Mornington Peninsula. When my best mate told me we would be staying with his grandparents in Mount Martha on the peninsula I was sort of dumbstruck for a moment. My lasting memories of that area were mostly traumatic, relating to the deaths of my grandparents who lived there. The otherwise beautiful area of the peninsula became shadowed for me in my grieving and loss. All those family trips to see them, for a while after my granddad’s death in particular just felt like revisiting the hospice he passed in.
Back in those days, fittingly it was Bruce Springsteen we’d often play in our family car journey to Victoria to see my grandparents. This trip ended up me reclaiming music and memories from the clutches of despair and trauma.
The January trip was just brilliant. I remember even when we weren’t doing “fun” stuff like when we were on the (ridiculously long) train trip from Mornington into Melbourne CBD just remarking to my then-girlfriend how much I was just enjoying the whole experience. I felt really comfortable with myself and where I was. There isn’t much out there as enjoyable as travel for me.
We went around to a pub one night, all had way too much to drink, and the company was just something I thoroughly enjoyed. We met another mate of ours while we were there and it reminded me I’d been really starved of just nights out and trips with mates due to health issues and my own introverted self. I really came out of my shell I feel.
Since then, I’ve been speaking to the same people really consistently and seeing them really consistently. Before quarantine we’d do a weekly drinks thing at the local dingy bowling club and just banter for hours until closing time. We’re also talking already about another trip down next year, and or that I am unbelievably keen.
There’s something really beautiful to Bruce Springsteen’s music being so prevalent in my good and bad memories of roadtrips and Mornington as a whole. These days the good thoroughly outweighs the negative. Thunder Road comes on when I have Spotify on shuffle and I just feel at ease with everything, transported back to different time, with a better perception of myself.
My personal connotations with hospital are difficult to express. A bit of trauma, a bit of melancholy, and a bit of joy. But mostly not joy. Hospitals are a weird place to spend your time.
My most vivid set of memories in hospital that weren’t traumatic were mostly from when I had infliximab infusions every 6-8 weeks sporadically from age 11 to 16. Treatments like it start as weekly, then fortnightly, then monthly, and so on until you hit 6 or 8 weeks.
The whole process became really familiar by the time I was 12 or 13. Drive to Randwick, get into the medical day unit, do a first set of observations (obs), get the cannula put in and bloods taken. Then, wait a little while before being hooked up to the IV drip and take mild painkillers. From there it’s 5-6 hours of laying down in a classic uncomfortable hospital bed.
We’d often bring entertainment with us. DVDs, my PlayStation Portable, books, and board games. This was before it was widely accepted that hospitals should have Wi-Fi and before I had an iPod. So you’d spend the majority of time waiting around for the infusion to finish and sleeping.
A major positive though, was the food. Hospitals have near endless vending machines. Randwick’s Sydney Children’s Hospital in particular had probably the best cafe I’ve ever known. Starlight Cafe. The best burgers, milkshakes, and tea I’ve known.
However, there was also just a normal free breakfast, lunch, and dinner service for those staying in hospital even just for the day. From memory they had Chicken Tuesday, Meat Monday, and my personal favourite – Fish Friday.
I just loved the fish. I’m not even sure why. It was basically just run of the mil supermarket crumbed fish. It was for some reason just incredible. I’d make sure every time I had to book in my next infusion that it came on a Friday just for the fish. For the day, you’d be put into a room with 2 beds and often there wasn’t another patient so I got their serving of the fish for lunch as well.
The nurse staff were also incredible and the best I’ve known and I’m really thankful that they were working there. When you’re an easily scared young boy seeing all the medical equipment and looking at blood and cannulas it can be really confronting – but they made me feel comfortable with it and calm. That’s an incredible talent to have.
Oh, and they also knew how mad I was about the Fish Friday. Sometimes they’d make sure to order perhaps too many servings knowing it was an empty day just so I have like 3-4 servings of it.
In a weird way, I sort of miss the whole day experience of the infusion. Don’t get me wrong – it was not a fun way to spend a day – but the sense of belonging and community and comfort you can feel from a situation like that is astounding.
Sometimes you can find community anywhere and in the most unassuming or seemingly unfriendly places.