Vilma and Richard Collard talk about their church-loving dog, rage against the ABC and reminisce about the good times courting by correspondence (and sleep-able pews!).

What have been the impacts of COVID-19 on you both?

Vilma (V):  Well George (son-in-law) and Barb (daughter) have been our ‘carers’ during this period and they do our shopping, but we haven’t seen the rest of the family since the shut-down. So we can’t give the grandkids a hug, which is what you really want to do – we feel very sorry for people who have grandchildren.

Then there’s the ABC radio news. I’ve listened to the extended 7.45 news in the morning for years and years, since I retired. But now they don’t have it! Just two minutes news at 8 o’clock. Terrible, absolutely terrible. I don’t know how they’re saving money and it’s ruined my day!

What things have kept your spirits up?

Richard (R):  I walk an hour a day. I do half an hour before breakfast and half an hour in the afternoon and I take the dog with me, so that helps to break things bit up. I’ve also reached the stage where I don’t feel at all embarrassed if I sit down and go to sleep and that’s a great help too. Occasionally I break out and go and get something particular from the shops that the daughter-in-law doesn’t know about. For example I like just plain oats for my breakfast and she comes back with something else which is not the same as having the old style, straight stuff, so I went down this morning and got enough for about a month so she won’t have to buy them for me.

I’m also glad we’ve got the television. I don’t know what my mum and dad would have done without the television. The Bulldogs making the finals helped keep my spirits up too. 

V: Yes, I’ve had to swing over from the Hawks and give my allegiance to the Bulldogs during the finals, because all the boys in our family barrack for the Bulldogs and all the girls barrack for Hawthorn (Ed. note: I’ve always said that women have superior taste). So the girls decided that we had to give the Bulldogs our support because in recent years the boys have had to support us through the finals much more than we’ve had to support them. But don’t worry, we won’t change our spots!

What has brought you joy?

V: After I came out of hospital, the rehab place wanted me to go back and do a 6 week course in ‘balance’. So I’ve been back and taken my better half with me as well and we have two afternoons a week doing that. So we have an outing and get a take-away coffee on our way home. So that’s been good.

The other thing is our little dog Trixie. We have a routine in the morning and she always follows that routine. But for some reason on a Sunday morning – and this amazes me – we get up and walk into the lounge room to put the television on and she goes before us and sits at my feet until I get the television up, and then lies down and we all ‘go to church’ (‘Songs of Praise’) together! It’s just amazing to see it. I think she’s pretty special. Plus of course the BUC church services have kept us going too, especially the kids and what they’ve been doing. Dave and the kids have been exceptional and it brings us great joy and happiness to see them.

Have you learned anything over this period?

V: I think we have lived in a wonderful time. In the past we’ve had the War and Depression and many, many difficulties, but I think we’ve had the best of it in recent years. So I feel so sorry for our young people at this time, the teenagers and the young adults. The younger kids not being able to go to school, the Year 12s not being able to have their usual break-ups, all of that stuff which is so meaningful, especially as you grow older and look back.

R: The worst for the younger ones is there are no Saturday night dances. I don’t know where they go to meet the opposite sex, or what happens. We had a church group of about forty and in Footscray there were three dance halls. The orchestras would be just playing away there then we’d appear at the door and the whole thing would liven up and we had a good night. Then we all took all the girls home, twenty boys taking twenty girls home – there was no ‘pairing off’ in our group at that stage. I don’t know what the teenagers do these days, the church was the centre of our activities.

Vilma and I didn’t meet that way, though. Vilma was a deaconess and she had a youth group and they went away for a camp and needed someone to look after the teenage boys and the church office dobbed me in. Then she went off to the New Hebrides. So I wrote to her towards the end of her term – it must have been a terrible letter, I’m a terrible letter writer. Anyway, when she came home I proposed to her and we got married. So we didn’t have much ‘going out’ at all – I saved a lot of money in my courtship!

V: I don’t recommend it, Peter. I don’t recommend courtship by correspondence, so you tell all the girls that (laughing) !

You don’t really get to know one another through letters and especially when the plane carrying the mail only came once a week and sometimes, if something was wrong, it didn’t come at all. Then we had to travel three hours by boat to get the mail. It was fun…!

What are you looking forward to most?

V: We miss our church and friends terribly and it will be good if we can all reunite for worship on Sunday morning. But we’re very glad that we have a congregation composed of very clever people who know what internet buttons to press in the meantime.

R: And we’ve got some very nice pews at the church and I can sleep there very well…

V: I just want to get together with the whole family, that’s what I really need, to see everybody happy together and well.

Peter McKinnon, 22/10/20

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