Welcome to this week’s editorial,
One of my favourite books many years ago was Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood that has a narrator revealing the dreams and innermost thoughts of the inhabitants of the fictional small Welsh fishing village, Llareggub. Yes, that is Buggerall backwards.
In the style of Thomas I might venture into a story of a fictional town called Buggerall that, for a need to locate somewhere, might be in regional NSW.
The story opens with a homecoming. A lad has been away for some time and, now free to travel, returns to his hometown. Alas he comes from a place of pestilence and knows that he might carry it with him but the thought of seeing his dear family and friends once again outweighs his sense of responsibility.
So the young man arrives by train and withing hours he is about the village of Buggerall shaking hands, kissing children and hugging neighbours. A very cheery return and one worthy of a grand party.
Unknowingly each of his hugs, each kiss, each handshake, has been accompanied by the pox that he now carries. But it is a silent pox. No-one will know of the fate that awaits for days to come.
The village busies itself. Some go to the store to shop for food and drink. What a time they had. Alas the young man needs to return to the city. He bids a hasty farewell, leaving a few tears, some fond goodbyes and his silent legacy. Within days the first signs of the gifted pox begin to show. A cough here, a sneeze there.
Everyone knows the rules of the village. If you have a pox you must lock yourself in your home and remain there until well. To ensure everyone knows that you are poxed your front door is marked with a yellow cross. The requirement is immediate and anyone must comply.
But wait…. What if you say it is just a sneeze… pollen on the wind, a stray hair from a dog. There is no need for the village doctor to prod and inspect. It will pass. And you will remain free to move about without the shackles to drive you indoors for a fortnight or more.
But your neighbours begin to suspect. They hear your hacking cough. They know you are unwell. They also know now of the man with his gift of the pox who came, and then went.
“They have the pox” is the cry. “Test them !!” “Push probes up their noses!” “Paint their doors with Yellow Crosses”.
But the cries were wasted on the village burghers who reminded the people that there can be no forced prodding and probing. The good burghers reminded the villagers that everything should be based on trust and truth and, if those accused chose to, they could lie, and so be it. There was nought to do.
Sadly, one by one, the villagers became infected. More and more homes were locked down and with each passing day another store closed as people came forward to declare themselves poxed and inform the burghers of where they had been and who they had seen.
But those who chose to keep their pox a secret still wandered the streets knowing that they could not be touched by the burghers because of the rules that protected their freedom. They mocked the law, and in doing so mocked the community who were doing their best to remain safe and pox free.
And what of the village of Buggerall today? The poxed still wander freely and those who are unpoxed have locked themselves behind doors, on the direction of the burghurs, wondering what might come next.
until next - lei