So long… and thanks for all the Times

This week was meant to be my final column in The Canberra Times. I regret to say that it was not published, because one of the editors (who shall remain nameless) was not happy with me dedicating the entire column to farewelling my readers (many of whom had been kindly asking about the status of the column). As the Times will not publish it, here is my final column…


Last week was my three hundredth column for Times2. If you only read newspapers (which, for those youngsters among you, are like news websites except on paper), you might not have noticed it, because (like this one) it was published exclusively online. That’s been the case for four weeks now. Hence, newspaper readers might have assumed that I no longer wrote a column.

That would have been accidentally prescient of them. Today is my final column after six years in Times2, cast aside in this brave new world in which newspapers don’t have any paper, columns take up an entire smartphone screen, and we fly to work using anti-gravity packs. (OK, I’m not sure about that last one.) The Canberra Times has invited me to continue writing features about entertainment and the arts, but the regular column has gone the way of other one-time Canberra Times mainstays like Between the Lines, Good Times and Tintin. (Not even I remember the daily Tintin comic strip, but I’ve done my research.)

In the past six years, without sounding boastful, I’ve achieved a few things in this column. In one of the very first columns, I revealed that Bjorn Lomborg was not an environmentalist at all, but a make-believe character in the employ of big business, probably played by a former nightclub waiter. The scoop was so shocking, so far ahead of its times, that nobody else has repeated that information yet.

But perhaps my greatest achievement, sadly, was making sure that the great Bucks Fizz song “Making Your Mind Up” made FM 106’s All-Time Top 2013. I say “sadly” because, really, I should have achieved something greater in 300 columns, and because, while I’d like to think that the song made the list due to the immaculate taste of Canberrans, it was probably something to do with my occasional campaigning. I would love to have stuck around to make sure it goes higher in next year’s list (perhaps even the top 200), but hopefully someone else can do that.

As I won’t be here next week, this is my last chance to discuss the topic that I’ve always wanted to discuss: the meaning of life. People have wanted to know this for millennia, at least until “Game of Thrones” started and everyone become so addicted that they stopped caring about anything else. But if we could focus once again, the meaning of life is actually quite an important topic.

Thousands of years ago, the Greeks couldn’t work it out. So, in an effort to explain why everything exists, they invented the gods, who were each responsible for various aspects of the world. The gods were led by Zeus, their king.

OK, you probably knew that. It obviously seemed like a perfectly reasonable way to explain the inexplicable, like why we are all here. However, they obviously hadn’t learned from the Egyptians that their solution would just lead to further confusion. If there were gods, then who created them? Zeus’ father, the Greeks worked out, was Cronos. Great, so who was his father? Eventually, they worked out that the gods had formed out of Gaea (or “Earth”). Great. So why gods? Why couldn’t we all be formed out of Gaea, without any middle men? Sadly, they hadn’t thought of that.

So that’s the logical meaning of life: we all formed out of Gaea, which means that the gods didn’t need to be there. I’ll explain the rest next week.

Oh hang on, no I won’t. I’ll have to leave you with a cliffhanger, which is just as well. There aren’t enough cliffhangers in The Canberra Times. Even the comic strips all finish with gags. (What happened to the good old days of “Conan” and “Prince Valiant”?) We have to rely on television for our cliffhangers. Rake and Sherlock gave us end-of-season cliffhangers last year that were so brilliant that I haven’t slept since. Two weeks ago, the season-ending episode of Miranda gave me extra reason for sleeplessness. (It wasn’t really a new idea, a plot twist that’s ended seasons of Cheers and Friends. But this time it was funnier.) As for the weekend’s episode of Doctor Who… no amount of sleeping pills will work.

So now I leave you with a few cliffhangers of my own. a) What am I doing next? b) Will it sell, whatever it is? c) Oh, and what’s the meaning of life?

The answers: a) I’m working on my next book, due out in October from Hardie Grant Publishers. b) Well, I hope so. c) To be honest, I really don’t know. Sorry for keeping your hopes up.

Happily, Sherlock will be back soon, and a new series of Rake has been given the go-ahead. I, however, will not be back. At least, not in this space.

A few of you have already asked me about my absence from Monday’s paper, emailing to make sure I’m still alive. That was very kind of you. It was fun chatting with so many of you over the years (mostly via email), and I dedicate this column to saying farewell.

Of course, those people who still prefer newspapers, who read this column long before it was ever published online, might not realise that I’ve written these words. If you see them, please wish them well from me.

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