Opinion

Time is what stops everything from happening at once

By Sandy Lloyd

SANDY LLOYD KNOWS TIME IS AN ILLUSION

It’s official. I have worked at the Shepparton News longer than most of my colleagues in the editorial department have been alive.

That’s a sobering thought.

Last week marked my 35 years of working at the News. And apart from a (very small) handful of other ‘oldies’, that milestone eclipses the age of all the young reporters in the office.

And several are so far south of 35 that they’re closer in age to my children — or even younger.

Yes, they are young enough (or I am old enough) for me to be their mother.

I try not to think about that too much. Going down that rabbit hole can only lead to madness.

I certainly don’t think of myself as their mother — I don’t really attach age to anyone around me. Usually, I just feel we’re ‘ageless’ workmates pulling together to bring out newspapers every day, all on the same page (pun intended).

But then something cultural will pop up that reminds me of the age gulf (really, you weren’t alive when Die Hard was in cinemas?).

Or I celebrate my 35th anniversary at the News.

I’m sure none of my young colleagues can ever in their wildest dreams imagine they will work here for so long.

And when I started — a long, long time ago in 1983 — I never imagined I would either.

(Yes, the sums don’t quite add up — I spent two years dabbling in other things. But I have printer’s ink running in my veins, and I kept coming back.)

No, as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed cadet reporter straight out of high school, I had glittering visions of a triumphant career in journalism that would take me around the world.

The News was just the first step on my upwards trajectory.

But fate — as is so often the case — had other ideas.

Instead came love-marriage-children-divorce-single parenthood-embedded in the Shepparton community.

Along the way I also became a fervent believer in country journalism and the importance of newspapers to regional communities.

I realised the world didn’t need more high-flying city-based reporters. What it needs is more journalists who care enough to tell the stories of people who live down the street and over the back fence.

Which is why the coronavirus-induced closure of country and suburban newspapers breaks my heart.

Local people need their local news.

I know that one day the printing presses will stop forever and our newspapers will all be completely digital.

But I want that to be because of the natural order of change and progress — not because a virus killed our advertising and meant we could no longer afford to employ people to produce local news for local people.

When I started in 1983, I could no more imagine a global pandemic closing down newspapers than I could imagine flying to the moon.

Thirty-seven years ago, reporters were still writing their stories on ancient manual typewriters onto small pieces of ‘copy paper’, on which the sub-editors hand-wrote their headlines and layout instructions.

Typesetters input these stories into a ‘computer’ system that spat out the stories in long print-outs, which compositors (we called them ‘comps’) pasted onto pages on the ‘stone’ following instructions from the subs carefully drawn onto ‘dummy’ pages. Then the whole lot was turned into ‘plates’ to go on the press out the back.

The News was an afternoon newspaper (it hit the streets about 3 pm each day, just in time for school pick-up). And it was produced in a cavernous building in High St, divided into a rabbit warren of offices with no heating, cooling or natural light. And anyone who wanted to, could smoke inside.

Impossible to imagine now, right? But really, in the cosmic scheme of things, not that long ago.

In my time at the News, I’ve lived through the change to computers — basic at first as a reporter, then as a sub being able to build entire pages on the screen (sadly, that was the end of comps and the stone) and now being able to send stories and pictures instantly to our website.

We changed from an afternoon to a morning newspaper, and moved to our purpose-built home on Melbourne Rd.

I’ve written stories or headlines about more agricultural shows, council meetings, court appearances, police, water debates, farmers, businesses, babies, cows, natural disasters, schools and events than I can possibly remember. Except for sport — the only thing I’ve never done is write a sport story.

I’ve survived 10 or so editors, and farewelled hundreds of colleagues — some I remember fondly but many whose names I’ve forgotten.

And I’m still here. Not for another 35 years, but hopefully I’ll still be at this keyboard long after COVID-19 has been wiped out.

I AM STREAMING...

The ground-breaking and award-winning musical, Hamilton.

I subscribed to Disney+ just so I could watch the original Broadway production that tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, first secretary of the United States treasury, by blending hip-hop, jazz, R&B and Broadway styles.

It was written and composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also plays Hamilton in this production.

I know little about the American War of Independence or early US politics, so this was a dazzling musical crash course in history.

Pre-COVID, Hamilton was announced as coming to Sydney next year. I hope it still does.

I AM SAD...

MasterChef is over for another year.

This season has been a game-changer: new judges, past contestants having another shot at winning — and coronavirus.

No-one caught COVID-19, but the show was affected by it. Filming began before the March lockdown, continuing after that with social distancing in the kitchen and a change to the challenges — no more cooking for hordes of people.

The worst part was no hugs for eliminated contestants — just lots of tears.

I’m not happy with the result.

Congratulations Emelia, but I really wanted Poh to win. Failing that, Tessa, Callum or Reece.

I AM DELIGHTED...

By Little Britain star Matt Lucas and his Thank You Baked Potato videos.

Adapted from a 20-year-old BBC comedy show sketch, Matt’s little ditty about washing hands and keeping your distance to help beat COVID-19 became a coronavirus YouTube and Twitter sensation.

He has done Baked Potato duets with other performers — from 80s pop legend Rick Astley to Queen guitar legend Brian May — which are all brilliant.

But my favourite is the video with musicians, singers and dancers from London West End musicals, all in lockdown, playing, singing and dancing about a baked potato.

I AM GETTING USED TO...

Being alone again. Well, alone with the dog. After three months at home studying during lockdown number one, my son has returned to Melbourne just in time for lockdown number two.

He needed to get back into his share house and be with his mates in the city again, even if he can’t leave that house — Saturday night beers with Mum were no longer enough for his mental health. So it’s just the dog and I.

The dog is unhappy and keeps looking for him.

She’s definitely not going to be pleased when I stop working from home and go back to the office soon.

She may need doggy therapy.