The Big Issue : Edition 461
THE BIG ISSUE 20 JUNE – 3 JULY 2014 21 COLLAGEBYLUKEDONOVAN Ward Music central nervous system. There is no one symptom that indicates the presence of MS... It can be benign – in rare cases apparently disappearing altogether after one or two episodes. Or it can progress steadily over many years, bringing about a slow deterioration in an individual’s capabilities.” It is estimated that 23,000 Australians have MS. Pat started his journalism career at The Horsham Times in country Victoria more than 50 years ago. At The Age in Melbourne he was, at various times, the letters editor, the home and garden editor, a music reviewer and a union rep. He later started a camping magazine. When asked by a student about some highlights of his working life he once said: “Subediting the front page of The Times in London when man walked on the moon in 1969 was pretty interesting. And then there was the night in 1975 when reports came through on the wire about the fall of Saigon.” “Do you know any Leonard Cohen?” Pat asks Hayley. No, not ‘Hallelujah’, I think. I hadn’t picked Pat as a Leonard Cohen man. I thought, from his music columns, he was more into folk music. Jigs and reels and ballads. Campfire music. Bush music. “‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ is one of the greatest songs ever written,” Pat tells Hayley. That’s a big call, I think. One of the greatest Leonard Cohen songs, maybe. “You know, ‘Jane came by with a lock of your hair....’” Hayley doesn’t know the song, but jots down its title for future reference. I tell Pat that though I first heard the song on a 1980s album of Cohen songs by Jennifer Warnes, I still don’t know it very well. “It’s about love and loss and addiction,” says Pat. “About a break-up and another man.” Later that day I look up the lyrics: Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair She said that you gave it to her That night that you planned to go clear Did you ever go clear? “I’ll play some ‘Hallelujah’” says Hayley. “The best version is by k.d. lang,” pipes up a volunteer feeding a patient. “Well, I’ll do my best,” says Hayley. The meal’s just about over. The plastic plates, bowls and cups, the bibs and the cutlery are being collected. Wheelchairs and patients are being manoeuvred. Pat and I talk about family and writing and music. I mention a cafe called Famous Blue Raincoat, not far from my place. “I’ve heard of it,” says Pat. “I would like to take a lock of my hair there,” he adds mischievously. I bid farewell, following the yellow lines along the corridors. Outside it’s still raining. At home I play the Jennifer Warnes album. As well as ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ (the title track), other songs include ‘Bird on a Wire’ and ‘Ain’t No Cure for Love’. I don’t believe that time can heal This wound I’m speaking of Ah, there ain’t no cure There ain’t no cure There ain’t no cure for love No, I think, as the song plays, as I almost sing along, there ain’t no cure for the floral dress woman, no cure for the man strapped to his wheelchair, no cure for the woman living at 45 degrees or for the man who asked for ‘The Carnival Is Over’. No cure for Pat and thousands of others. But there are people like Hayley the music therapist, with her songs, and the volunteers and nurses with their dedication, and the courageous patients with their indomitable spirits. »Vin Maskell is a regular contributor to The Big Issue. His last article was ‘A Life Aquatic’, documenting his year of daily swimming.