The 53-year-old author and actor removes his glasses and wipes his eyes. William McInnes has just shared the intimate details of some last moments with his dying wife, film-maker Sarah Watt. We, the audience, accept the privilege with quiet humility after a frolic of a night following his animated recollections of family holidays. Holidays is the theme and the title of his new book which he is launching. Noosa folk have filled the iconic Berardos Restaurant to get close to the charismatic star over dinner and drinks, and get a signed copy of his latest release. Best known for his television roles in Blue Heelers and SeaChange, personally, I have most appreciated his lead roles in the movies Look Both Ways (directed by his wife), Unfinished Sky and Irresistible (with Susan Sarandon).
“I’ve read all his books and I don’t miss his column every Saturday in the Courier Mail,” the lady next to me informs. Another is here to garner inspiration to write a book. All want to be entertained by a great. Who would not want to be in the presence of such an artist, dedicated to expressing the art of living? I am here to catch some quintessence, hoping that I will be taken by expressions of humanity which propel for weeks to come. McInnes shares such a moment after the death of Sarah: being embraced in an instance of grief by a “rough as guts” local on Stradbroke Island at the magical scene of breaching whales.
I love words and the way they can weave someone’s story straight into our hearts. And how words buoy. On the occasion of National Reading Week, McInnes once said: “The ideas and thoughts contained in a series of constructed words can form a bridge to get people across that river of doubt. Reading takes you out of yourself. It can make you see, no matter how alone you may think you are and however desperate that place you might find yourself in, that somewhere through all our histories, someone has been there before.”
Back to the subject of his book – Holidays – and this evening McInnes fondly animates and shares humorous anecdotes from his past holidays that tag these special blocks of togetherness, generally with people you care about. I note that we are about to mark a big one – Christmas holidays. And funny enough, I am in the midst of editing a family book of shared memoirs on this very subject. It is my extended family’s very special collection of memories of holidays and time spent together across four generations at a very unique place on earth for us, a sea cottage on the Wild Coast in South Africa. It holds so many stories, slices of our lives, intertwined togetherness, and has us returning every so often to watch whales and weave more.
May your holidays this year be uniting, filled with great mirth and good people.