Thursday, February 14, 2008

Remembering Paddy McGuiness

In memory of the Old Man Banksia of the Sydney Commentariat

DH finds herself missing Paddy's Black Watch from the picture window of Balmain's Unity Hall. She had long entertained a delicious Paddy McG fantasy in which she alone succeeded where others had failed. In this scenario, she sees herself, by means which are not entirely clear, in the midst of the charmed circle of Unity Hall quaffers. The brooding figure of Old Mr Darcy, ... err .. McGuinness, is amonst them, sulking into his ale, planning his next attack on idiot feminist harpies in control of Leichhardt Council. Suddenly, something DH says, some unique and piercing insight, (not specified in the fantasy) causes Rochester ... err... McGuinness to look up, and his moist and beady yet penetrating gaze, (which has not made contact with another pair of eyes since his split from the Alp of '78 (or thereabouts)) meets hers. Both are electrified! Taking each other's hands they fly... or rather, trundle, giving their advanced years and rather corpulent frames ... to the Garden... of the Circle Cafe, just down the road, coincidentally enough, unofficial Headquarters of the Allied Basketweavers and Latte-Quaffers Guild. There they chatter animatedly into the wee hours, trading reminiscences, he sharing a good half century of juicy political scuttlebutr, she writing it all down for that book she knows she has in her.

But here, dear reader, we must leave the pigeon pair.

For alas, it is too late, all too late!

DH did indeed make one attempt to turn this fantasy into a reality. In an Aha! moment, she knew she had the key to Paddy's heart with her own bee-in-a-bonnet issue, Leichhardt Council's Excellent Twinning-with-Palestine Adventure. Marching into the Unity Hall, she brazenly plonked herself, uninvited, at the table of the taken-aback denizens, and thrust her piece, The Mouse that Roared, Leichhardt Council Style, under PMcG's reluctant nose. But dashing her hopes of a short track to a lucrative career as a Quadrant gadfly, Paddy pointedly suggested she might prefer to send her masterpiece to the Village Voice, instead of (implicitly) bothering him. Nevertheless, DH's guess was correct: Paddy was sufficiently exercised to vouchsafe her a few pithy words on the abundant follies of Leichhardt Council, and its loony support for the pack of misfits and Anti-Semites that he averred to be the "Friends of Hebron" before subsiding moodily back into his paper and beer.

How to save face, as the seconds ticked by in increasingly awkward silence? Finally, putting her most insouciant voice on,

DH goes: "So I take it, I'm dismissed then?".

PMcG: Grunts assent. Subsides again into paper and ale.

No seriously, there was something about Paddy that DH admired greatly. He was true to his own irascible nature, he genuinely cared about the "real" battlers, even if he was not that competent at judging the difference. Paddy had in his own mind, in a prior encounter, decided that DH was a genuine battler, and she saw something unfailingly kindly in his eyes from that moment on. The last time she saw Paddy, it was a rainy day. He emerged from the Unity Hall arriving at the taxi rank a fraction ahead of DH lugging her shopping. When people are habitually socially avoidant, you have to read their eyes. What DH saw was an almost solicitous consideration. The warm memory stays with her, while some of his tirades against feminists and elite chatterers during his SMH just seem like foolishness from a long time ago.

As an active member of the Asperger and Autism disability community, DH is used to dealing with people with huge intellects and diminished social insight. Such people are invaluable members of society. It behoves society to read them correctly, and weigh their intellectual contribution separately from their lack of a nuanced understanding of social dynamics. DH is not making an unofficial diagnosis of Paddy McGuinness as an Asperger's Savant with a dose of an inherently "Oppositional Defiant" mindset, by any means. She hardly knew the man. But one of her crusades is to increase social harmony by taking a more accurate reading of where people's ideas and actions may originate.

When she walks past the Unity Hall, it is with loss and shock that she realises that he will never be there again, and the conversations she hoped she might yet have with him were not to be. (Tear drops into the keyboard).
One day later:
What on earth was DH thinking yesterday? PMcG was mostly a mischievous trouble-maker and rallying point for resentful misfits like himself. Sentimental outburst well and truly over.

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