By Phil Jarratt
Everyone knows John Bowie. If not personally, then the idea of him, clad head to toe in his favoured yellow, riding his yellow bike along Noosa Parade to the beach, dog Buster in a yellow trailer behind, bringing a smile to everyone he passes.
Close friends say the John you see is the John you get. “His humour and his love of life define him,” says one of about 50 who gathered dressed in yellow at Main Beach by the lifeguard tower (a favoured spot of John and wife Chris) to protest the lack of compassion that is preventing him coming home to spend his last days.
The former cartoonist, who turned 73 this week, was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago, and after chemotherapy to reduce the tumour, flew to Sydney for specialist surgery. Unfortunately the cancer was too advanced to be removed and John was given a terminal prognosis. With very limited time left to them, John and Chris applied to the Queensland government for a special exemption from hotel quarantine to allow him to quarantine at home in Noosa. The application was rejected.
While some of the “Yellow Shirts For John” protesters felt that their efforts were possibly too little too late, others were hopeful that recent events, such as banning a Canberra woman from attending her father’s funeral in Brisbane, might cause a government rethink on the vexed and complex issue of compassionate exemptions. Especially with an election coming up.
In the specific case of John Bowie, here is a man who, because of his condition, has been in isolation the whole time he has been in NSW, and would be in isolation again, were he allowed to come home to die, rather than spend two weeks of his precious remaining time in the soulless confines of a city hotel room. “John and Chris represent no risk to Noosa or Queensland,” said friend Anka Franzmann, “and at the moment his physical and emotional well-being is significantly compromised.”
At the beach protest on Monday, I spoke to close friend Bruce Bullock who grew up not far from John in Dorrigo, NSW. He said, “John is just one of those blokes with a heart of gold. He doesn’t deserve to be going through this. I just hope that our being here, dressed for fun, like he always does, will make someone take notice.”
Cartoonists always seem to find something to make us laugh in the grimmest situations, and John Bowie is no exception, sending funny photos and a cartoon to his mates, and even joining them by Skype on the beach.
Let’s bring him home.