While many things in Australia are contracting — employment, the economy, people’s enthusiasm for videoconferencing — one thing has grown significantly in recent weeks: the numbers of Pauls Kelly in the public eye.
As our stockpile of topics of conversation are dwindling as our perception of time falls away, the mere act of being able to say “sorry, which Paul Kelly do you mean?” counts as a legitimate — and refreshing — new conversation.
And so we got pondering which Kelly we would most like to be trapped with during a pandemic.
We can ignore the many, many non-Australian Pauls Kelly — such as the UK mixed martial arts fighter or the 30’s mobster hailed as “the father of organised crime” — both of whom would be colourful people with which to experience lockdown, if Wikipedia is to be trusted.
Note: attempts were made to get comment from several of the related Pauls. The requests that weren’t ignored were rejected outright, which is perfectly understandable.
So who would it be?
The one who is the current federal deputy chief medical officer
Obviously the newest Paul Kelly is also the one with access to the most pertinent and up-to-date medical information regarding the spread of coronavirus — as best I can ascertain, he’s the only one with a thirty year professional history in studying the spread of infectious disease as a clinical epidemiologist.
That is, unless the others are leaving a lot out of their LinkedIn pages.
On the one hand he’d definitely be able to explain what was going on day-to-day. On the other, when you’ve spent hours panic-scrolling through stories about the galloping US death toll and then watching government press conferences about how we should reopen schools, you might prefer a housemate who’ll suggest Mario Kart rather than presenting an exhaustive assessment of the current levels of risk and the likelihood of a secondary wave of infection.
Also, you just know that he’d be sitting there when you’re watching Contagion and telling you all the things they’re getting wrong. Just let Matt Damon work his magic, Paul.
The one who used to captain the Sydney Swans
At a time of uncertainty and fear there’s a lot to be said for being flanked by the man known as “Captain Courageous”, especially when he can back that up with shelves full of awards asserting that he’s not just the best, but also the fairest.
Of course, with the AFL season on ice and everyone seeming to focus instead on increasingly bizarre ways to bring rugby back — including the suggestion of putting everyone on an isolated island and forcing them to compete, which was the exact plot of the Mortal Kombat movie — you might have your job cut out trying to keep his mind off sport for a bit.
The one who writes for The Australian
It depends slightly on which era of current editor-at-large Paul Kelly you were plumping for.
The ’90s model might be great company and regale you with trenchant economic and political analysis about this unprecedented time in Australian history, albeit with an anti-Labor slant.
That’d still be preferable to the current version, who’d probably segue abruptly from discussing the potential easing of lockdowns into how the Pell trial was a travesty of justice and that it was all Julia Gillard’s fault for starting that pointless royal commission into institutional child sexual abuse.
Then again, you could probably shut that down by asking about the new Turnbull book, his supposed statements about the Murdoch press and how Malcolm dealt with the successful passage of same-sex marriage in Australia. That’ll buy you several unbroken hours.
The one who is our nation’s musical conscience
With the greatest of respect to the aforementioned, this is the Paul Kelly people assume you mean when you say Paul Kelly, and which causes the most confusion when being discussed in an epidemiological context.
Although to be fair he’d probably be well poised to track the geographical spread of the virus since there are only about eight places in Australia not mentioned by name in his songs.
Furthermore, his song “Adelaide” is not just the most cruelly accurate slam to our shared hometown but its claim that “the streets are so wide / And everybody’s inside” feels hauntingly prescient as kangaroos hop through the empty Victoria Square.
And sure, there’s nothing more annoying than a housemate who just noodles around on the guitar all the time, but at least in this case you know that you’d have access to some quality gravy.
Winner: Let’s face it, there are no winners.