John Doyle – A Covid Memoir

How John Doyle coped with Covid

We were very fortunate that John Doyle agreed to speak at a FOBL event. A date was set for September and there was a great response with a big, enthusiastic audience, many of whom had not been to a FOBL event before. They, especially, enjoyed the supper and wine provided and stayed long after John’s talk was finished.

John is clearly a deep thinker, as is his alter ego, Roy Slaven, though he is more well known for his sporting prowess. John talked about many issues, from bushfires, floods, covid to mental health issues suffered by children particularly during isolation. He reminded us of his series with Tim Flannery, Two Men in a Tinnie, and the fact there are still terrible environmental problems to be resolved with the Murray Darling river systems. He pondered how to mark Australia Day in an appropriate way and how to best run the education system, which seems to him to have embraced a business model rather than the business of education.

Back to Balmain and he mused about the gentrification of Balmain, the loss of the Greek milk bar on the corner of Darling Street which is now Sportsgirl! Something to which many of the audience could relate. The eccentric characters who used to frequent Darling Street and no longer do, and the increasing numbers of Maserati drivers – dickheads! He mentioned his play performed at the Sydney Theatre Company, Pig Iron, which celebrated the “ordinary” people of Balmain and thereabouts. Many in the audience remembered it.

To finish he read from Blessed, the book he wrote which gave him a purpose after he had read as many murders mysteries as the library held, during covid. Writing it through the voice of Roy Slaven gave him a way to write it when he could not write it in his own voice. It is funny, it’s poignant and as the review in the Guardian said, “a book that is above all beautifully surprising”. The pieces that John read to us were particularly funny, he left us laughing whilst pondering his many interesting insights. All in all, a beautifully surprising evening.


  1. It was a great evening enjoyed by all. Looking forward to the next event.

    Anita Ramsbottom

Leave a Comment