Down at the Shoalhaven River recently, embroiled in the work of words and sentences and paragraphs and characters who misbehave and do the unexpected, I almost choked on my cereal when I heard the radio broadcaster say, ‘Coming up after the next song will be the Forecaster of Beauty’. What? Huh? Of course, it was too good to be true – the DJ had tried to say ‘The Forecaster on Duty at the Bureau of Meteorology’ very fast – but his wonderful mistake certainly got me thinking.
What if there really was a Forecaster of Beauty? We’d surely hear gems like ‘there should be a few millimetres of beauty in the gauge this week’ or ‘light and easterly beauty, increasing to moderate beauty in the afternoon’ or ‘isolated beauty, tending scattered along the coast’. I’m particularly taken with ‘a strong beauty system is centred over the Bight and extends a broad ridge over the ACT’ and the fantastically imprecise ‘early beautiful patches’.
Needless to say, the Forecaster of Beauty (FOB for short) would not only deal in beauty, just like the meteorologist doesn’t only deal with sunshine, so there’d have to be comments along the lines of ‘the beauty is expected to weaken mid-week, which may lead to some ugliness impacting on the region later in the week’ and ‘fine, apart from the chance of some ugliness on the ranges’ and the straightforward ‘ugly conditions developing later’, which really does sound like a day best spent under the doona with a good novel and a block of chocolate, doesn’t it.
Perhaps the FOB wouldn’t only tell us about environmental issues, but beautiful events too. ‘Tomorrow evening on the walking track to Mount Majura there’ll be a wombat mother with her baby by her side and they won’t be frightened’. It would be good if the FOB could say, ‘On the 318 this afternoon there’ll be an old choreographer who, completely happy and content with her long creative life, will close her eyes for the last time and she’ll keep riding the bus around the city for three hours, which will be considered her last dance’. How good it would be if we could be let in on the fact that at 10pm tomorrow night we should all go to bed with our partners but not read or do anything else, just hold hands in silence because we’ll fully notice for the first time the soft bony warmth of the skin.
Of course, the Forecaster of Beauty would also have to tell us about the ugly events. But hang on, why? Why couldn’t the FOB only tell us about the beautiful things? That would be their job, for heaven’s sake – to let us know where the beauty is going to be tomorrow and what we should wear for it! Perhaps, however, all this would remove the element of surprise from those wonderfully glorious things that just happen, sometimes for only a few seconds, like when I was down at the Shoalhaven River recently, embroiled in the work of words and sentences and paragraphs and characters who misbehave and do the unexpected, I heard a radio broadcaster say that coming up after the next song…
(First published in Panorama, Canberra Times, May 16 2009)