COVID-19 DIARY – THE BOOK OF LOVE

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February 14

The wedding of my best friend to his bride was a wonderful affair.

I barely spoke to him on the day.

But I saw him smile. I saw people cry.

I met a lot of new people who lived and worked in Canberra and were in the life of the bride and groom in a way that I just am not.

They were amazing people to spend time with and get to know. I kind of fell in love with them and felt like I knew the bride and groom just a little better because of them. Just one more reflection of what I have always known that they are good people – the best people – my people.

The wedding took place at the Fucntion Centre at the Taronga Zoo, there were not many people there but quite a lot for COVID, we ate a high tea and the food was really nice. It was a lovely day and a lovely wedding following a lot of anxiety and holding their nerve to get to the day.

I can only imagine what it felt like to have the day occur after everything that preceded it.

On my wedding day a million years before COVID, I had unexpectedly shed a tear the second I went to sign the registry. I think somewhere deep inside I thought, “It’s done.” or maybe I was just so moved by Gabriel’s Oboe by Ennio Morricone being played.

There are three of us in this Band of Brothers.

We went to Scouts together as kids.

In our twenties we spent often a late night out, not partying or in the clubs but in lounge rooms watching old movies or in video game cafes and cinemas. Unpacking the mysteries of the universe the way young people do.

It moved very slowly, very organically but we all ended up working jobs, getting married and one of us is now a father.

Would you believe me if I told you that they’re still my best friends even if I barely see them now.

One afternooon not so long ago we were driving somewhere and I told one of them, “I sure do like being your friend.”

He answered, “Me too.”

Nothing else needed to be said.

So all three of us were in Sydney on Valentines Day and one of us got married to the love of his life, the best person in the world for him and the other two were there to celebrate that.

I’m fond of the expression the ties that bind.

I am not in their lives the same way anymore but somewhere in those nights in our 20s we became bound together and I still feel and honour that link.

Whenever I have needed them, they were there and whenever I am needed I will be there.

They’re my friends.

The best.

And I feel very grateful and pleased that now all three of us have met and married our best friends.

Now we turn away from the wedding and people who shall retain their privacy.

Karen and I headed out into the night to get dinner in Sydney Harbour on Valentines Day without a booking.

Well we hadn’t been told what the plan was after the wedding.

Despite driving my car to Sydney I had no interest in driving around Sydney.

We caught a cab to Taronga Zoo and now we caught a cab to Circular Quay.

Unlike the cabbie earlier who couldn’t find the lobby of our hotel, this guy knew his stuff and made sure we saw the city right as we headed to our destination.

In 2008 I had stayed a week with the groom in Sydney not far from Circular Quay.

It was an amazing week and Sydney had been such an amazing place back then but Circular Quay was not quite how I remembered it.

We went and got our obilgatory shots outside the Sydney Opera House that was cordoned off with security guards.

I decided we would head to Darling Harbour even though that is where we ate three years earlier.

We still didn’t get to Star Casino this time either, my Dad took me there to have a great meal in 2003.

I headed back up to the jettys wondering what the hell I was going to do.

I saw people boarding a boat and trampled down the jetty and introduced myself to the Captain.

I told him I didn’t know how this worked but I was wondering how I could get to Darling Harbour.

He informed me that he was a privately chartered boat but pointed me to a sign and said I could use the number on it to order a water taxi.

I was about to thank him when a head popped out from behind him and asked where was I headed?

I told him Darling Harbour.

“That’s where we’re headed. Hop on!” he told me in what I think was a Lebanese accent.

I looked at Karen and we hopped on that boat.

The man didn’t want any money.

And that is how we came to sail out over Sydney Harbour at sunset for free.

In a handful of minutes we were in Darling Harbour, all our problems solved and a memory to last a lifetime thanks to the random generosity and kindness of a stranger.

Don’t give up on the human race just yet.

I say this as a proud Queenslander, you have to give it to them.

There is something special about Sydney Harbour.

When we arrived in Darling Harbour our fellow passengers jumped off and were gone. The guy who offerred us to hop on board said to this friends he’d already paid for the trip.

We thanked him but they were off.

Karen and I now had to figrue out where we were going to eat. I’m not going to lie, we went into a few places after checking out the menu only to find they were booked out.

Then we reached the Cyren who were churning through couples having dinners. They told us, if we were happy to wait, they would give us a table as soon as one was available. We weren’t the only ones and sure enough minutes later we were ordering a seafood basket and a Greek salad.

I had a dinner in Darling Harbour on Valentine Days with my wife.

Afterwards we caught a cab back to the hotel.

It had been a big day and the drive home awaited us tomorrow.

We did look out over that harbour again though.

We were here and it was so beautiful.

-Lloyd Marken