• Jen Seyderhelm

Desperately seeking a police officer for concert tickets

I’m normally good at remembering names.

I was attending FIREAID 2020 in Bowral, ostensibly to record and interview people as well as raise money for the Southern Highlands RFS and the Wingecarribbee Mayoral Relief Fund, but I had been distracted by the presence of my hero Glenn A Baker. I’d met Glenn before, some 20 years previously, where he’d encouraged me and my career. He’d did the same at FIREAID. There was no degree in rock music history, he said. I could indeed pave my own path, like his, if I’d spent the in between years devoting myself to it. I was 14 published books behind him though.

I was standing off to one side afterwards, texting about the encounter and generally ignoring what was going on around me, when this man approached me.

“So, Glenn A Baker has been your hero since you were a kid, huh?”

I thought he must have been looking over my shoulder for a moment but realised instead that he’d been patiently waiting for me to notice him. I’m not proud of this.

“What? Oh, did you hear me just then?”

I replayed my relatively lengthy chat with Glenn A with a wider mental lens. This man had been standing to the side the whole time. Dressed in a police uniform I was so engrossed in the moment I’d not acknowledged nor noticed him. I introduced myself and he did the same. He started talking about a connection he has with the radio station I work for and his name escaped my mind as quickly as it had entered. Darn it.

He looked tired but also had the expression on his face I’d seen so many different places over this very difficult bushfire period. His work matters. This evening was not only a validation but also a celebration of the tireless, exhausting, ongoing role the police and fire departments were doing to keep us safe.

I asked if it was a day off. He said it was day 2 of a supposed stretch of four consecutive days off but at that exact moment he had not slept in 36 hours. I don’t think I have ever stayed awake 36 hours in my life and here he was still functioning like a normal human being. I asked him where abouts he worked and he said he was the head of the massive South Coast Police District. This senior officer had waited patiently for me to get off my phone to chat music with me.

Earlier in the day I had taken my microphone and recoding device down to the RFS and the fire engines to get an interview with a local fireman. I found John, from the Avoca branch, sitting quietly in his vehicle. I got up next to him and we chatted comfortably until I asked whether I could record a few minutes. John, by the way, wore the same facial expression as my new police friend. As soon as the recording device came out, John said to me what I often hear when interviewing that he wasn’t at all interesting and so and so would be a far better person to chat to. None the less, he complied, but the recorded conversation was in no way as relaxed and spontaneous as the prior banter as I sat in the engine next to him.

John from the Avoca branch of the RFS took this, I've not sat in a fire engine before.

So, back to my police friend, at that moment when he disclosed his role, I had the fleeting thought that I should do a quick interview too, but my gut said no. We were just shooting the breeze. He told me how much he was looking forward to the later acts, Megan Washington in particular. He wasn’t sure whether he’d be able to last that long, but man, he was going to try.

It is 48 hours later, and I keep seeing his face.

I spent a very happy day at FIREAID 2020 enjoying some great music, company and atmosphere. Leo Sayer kept everyone entertained while never taking his eyes of the event’s key goal. John Waters looked after and protected the talent to make sure that the day functioned to schedule, while also remaining focused on that same goal. Julia Zemiro, wow. Every single artist, even those who appeared at mighty short notice (e.g. Jeff Duff, who got everyone up and dancing). What a celebration of community spirit, support and unity.

Just before I left the concert I ran into my police friend who I’d been keeping an eye on across the day. I tapped him on the shoulder.

“Are you going home soon?”

“Megan Washington’s on. I can’t leave till now! Then, well, maybe.”

He grinned at me.

I bet he’s working today. I hope there’s a Megan Washington song he’s humming in his head. Thank you FIREAID, the RFS, police and volunteers. I know such an event doesn’t mark the end of a need for support and donations, nor the fire season, but I hope you saw how much you are appreciated and respected.

If you can help me track this man down, I’d like to shout him some Megan Washington concert tickets at a later date. To say thank you; for the time, the chat, and for the reminder of what really matters.

The hill at Bong Bong racecourse filling with people

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