That's our thing, always has been, right from day one. We like to read, pubs, chat, think about what's going on with ourselves and the world around us, drink beer and read. So, what do we do when the pubs are all closed? And when the world is dealing with some pretty serious stuff that you could really use a good think and a chat about? This is how TGBC is coping in the age of another scary anagram, COVID-19.
Our first priority will always be the health and safety of our goons. It's why we exist in the first place - to check up on each other and make sure everyone is okay. So when lockdown came into effect just before our April meeting, we went straight into the Tough Guy Bomb Shelter to plan our response. The decision was made to take all of our meetings (more than 30 chapters and counting across Australia and the globe) online.
It obviously wasn't ideal and it wasn't going to be pretty. We're a diverse bunch with goons representing all ages, backgrounds and, shall we say, levels of technical competence. But as much as we needed our monthly trip to the pub, we needed our support network and our monthly book chat even more. Since COVID everyone has a favourite video conferencing platform - for us the easiest and cheapest was Facebook Messenger. We already use Facebook for organising anyway, and we have a strong presence with plenty of lively discussion in the Tough Guy Book Club Pool Hall.
Needless to say, there were teething problems. Chat groups are limited to 8 so our officers did their best to spread goons between chapters and make sure nobody was left behind. And we faced all the usual difficulties - laggy internet, frozen video, goons talking over each other (which is a lot less fun on the internet than face-to-face in a pub). Just like the pandemic, we knuckled down and got through. The April meeting went pretty well, the May meeting even better. If anything the chats were more fun than usual. Something to do with us suddenly having a lot of time to read and nobody to tell about it.
We even got a bit cocky with this online business. April saw our first ever TGBC Lockdown Trivia competition. Our officers rigged up a complex system of video presentation, chat windows and text messages, so that goons across the country could compete to see who had the fastest fingers and who knew the most about hats. Turns out, it was Brunswick. We hosted a Live From Lockdown music festival and jam session, which went very badly but was a noble effort on the part of our musos. And most popular of all have been our Online Whiskey Tasting classes. What can we say? Blokes love to receive free booze in the mail. Anything that connects goons with each other and helps fight off cabin fever, we're in favour.
Now, as things start to get better in Australia (as we hope they soon do worldwide), and we stumble blinking out of the Tough Guy Bomb Shelter, what's next?
Some of us will be going back to the pub. They need our business and we need their beer. Our rural and suburban chapters will be making bookings at their usual venues, or anywhere else that will have us. We want to get things back to normal as much as anyone, which for TGBC means a bunch of blokes around a table at a pub talking about books.
But if you've watched the news lately you know it's not over yet. COVID-19 is going to be around for a while, which means online meetings will be as well. They'll be run out of city chapter locations for the foreseeable future. Our officers will shuffle people around so everyone has someone to talk to. Diverse bunch, remember - this way our older goons, or those with health problems, or anyone who just doesn't feel comfortable going out yet, can get the support and book chats they need from the comfort of their own homes.
It'll be hard. There'll be lots of failed logins and dropped connections and "Mate, turn your mic on!"-s. But this way, when it's all over, we'll still be here reading, chatting, drinking beer, thinking about how we survived such a messed up time, drinking beer and reading.
Take care. See you in the pub soon.