Christmas diary

Diary Australia

Andrew Bolt

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Andrew Bolt

17 December 2022

9:00 AM

Shock! I’ve found a bomb in my library. My sanctuary. My hermitage. I’d hauled down a book of essays one late evening and unsuspectingly leafed through it before the fire, feeling smug with a splash of Craigellachie 2008 in the glass. (No, you can only buy it in Scotland. Smug factor: 10.) So I felt I was conforming beautifully with a 19th century picture of a civilised man, surrounded by walls of books. And then… bang! The bomb.

It was William Hazlitt, that brilliant ratbag: ‘The description of persons who have the fewest ideas of all others are mere authors and readers.’ Then followed line after line of more abuse of people doing exactly what I was at that very moment: ‘You might as well ask the paralytic to leap from his chair, and throw away his crutch, or, without a miracle, to “take up his bed and walk”, as expect the learned reader to throw down his book and think for himself.’ What a hypocrite, I thought, coming from a man who did nothing useful but write himself. But the damage was done.

The wound rankles as I pack to fly to Sydney for three Christmas parties and the wedding of Daisy Cousens. It’s already a big test for a recluse, and now added to the danger is the good chance  I might bump into Mark Bosnich again. Don’t misunderstand me: I admire the former Socceroo goalkeeper, and loved talking to him at one of the annual Christmas parties thrown by fellow introvert Lachlan Murdoch. But Hazlitt has exposed me. You see, I have an embarrassing secret. I, too, could have been an English Premier League goalkeeper. But all it took to stop me was $20.

I know, I’m just like Lady Catherine de Bourgh, gesturing at a piano and declaring: ‘If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.’  I even have a piano of my own that is never played unless neighbour Margaret drops in and bangs out reproving chords. But let me tell my story, because it did change my life and is on my mind every time I chat to Bozza, or interview him on my show.

I was just 16 when I was picked as one of the goalkeepers in South Australia’s schoolboy squad. But one day, dressing for training in the changerooms, I hid a $20 note in my school shoes and came back later to find it gone. Also gone was trust in my team, and months later I refused an invitation to play a game somewhere on the Murray, and  went instead on a year-long odyssey to Europe. I never played soccer again. Yet there I’ll be with Bosnich, the reader talking to the do-er, as if I, too, am of the great fraternity of keepers, which, embarrassingly, I actually do feel. Or did until Hazlitt.

Talk about the past colliding with the present. Dickens had it right, again, with his Ghost of Christmas Past. Take Daisy’s wedding. I’m hoping to meet her father, Peter, 35 years since I saw him last. I was then on yet another false start, dreaming of a career in opera and working as publicity director for the South Australian Opera Company. Alas, the company was diving into bankruptcy, and I was miscast as paid schmoozer – one baritone rightly complained I nearly punched him when he moaned about his lowly billing. But Peter was perfect. He sang beautifully as the lover Anthony in Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, but what made him particularly perfect for me was that he had no inflamed ego, affectations or eccentricities to tiptoe around. Sweeney was played by Lyndon Terracini, who’s just abruptly quit as artistic director of Opera Australia and back then nursed  his small voice with a huge scarf, whispering between performances. Mind you, I’ve since learned he was a doll compared to divas I’ve met working in television over the past 20 years. A story for another day.

But I’m remarkably relaxed about the Sky News Christmas party. I’ve never worked with so many nice people, including the editor of this magazine. But the party has its hazards, and I’ve had to take precautions. You see, I do my show from home and am like that astronaut in Kubrick’s 2001, floating alone in space, tethered to the mothership by just a long cord and at the mercy of Hal, the onboard computer. I’ve never even met my last two producers or the cheery people in the Sydney studio who press the buttons and could light me up like an orange if they chose. This is tense making.

But I once read of someone famed for their brilliant recall of faces. It turned out he’d actually hired someone to walk behind him, whispering brief biographies into his ear as he advanced with a big smile and outstretched hand. So my son, who works in the Sydney office, has kindly volunteered for that role, but just for half an hour so he can get on with his own partying, having mysteriously acquired all the social skills hitherto unknown in generations of Bolts.

It’s small blessings like that – seeing the blossoming of your children  – which make life at my age such a serene joy, after so much over-thinking and self-doubt. And this Christmas I can count them all, as all three children gather around my table for the first time in three years of pandemic and study overseas.  I even bought a much wider and longer table in time for Christmas to fit all the food, because my catering ideal is just as you see in The Peasant Wedding by ethnic compatriot Pieter Breugel, with the table groaning. And there I will admire my wife and all my children  – home from Scotland, Missouri and Sydney. It will be a magical Christmas, and I wish you all the happiness I already feel.

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Published by Nelle

I am interested in writing short stories for my pleasure and my family's but although I have published four family books I will not go down that path again but still want what I write out there so I will see how this goes

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