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Just purse your lips and blow - how whistling can help us through this latest lockdown


It might be difficult while wearing a mask, but making our own music can help us through times of adversity, writes Rebecca Levingston

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It’s hard to whistle when you’re wearing a mask.

Sophie, my whistling workmate, realised she was having trouble with her usual trill while wearing a cloth facemask that muffled her song. Another surprise coronavirus consequence. Whistle theft.

We need all the whistlers we can get right now in Queensland as we strap on masks and it gets tougher to see who’s still smiling. 2021 has served up another wobbly week of uncertainty for many as the pandemic threatens to thwart Easter plans. So it’s worth finding a reason to whistle if you can.

I love hearing a whimsical whistler. They catch you when you least expect it, sharing their song with anyone in earshot. Recognisable or rambling sounds are just fine by me. Whistlers are people whose internal joy can’t be kept inside. Or maybe they’re just bored.

Tony Barber is a whistler. My friend Cobbie was a contestant on Sale of the Century and due to a technical glitch that held up proceedings, he had to stand alone with Tone in the gift shop. To pass the time, Tony whistled. My mate got to take home a diamond stickpin. Whistling and winning.

Famous whistling songs provide an eerily appropriate soundtrack for this period in Queensland history. Bobby McFerrin sang then whistled Don’t Worry Be Happy.

Otis Redding passed the time whistling as he was Sitting on the the Dock of the Bay.

Patience from Guns N’ Roses wouldn’t be possible without that achingly beautiful whistling intro. So we sit, we wait and we try not to worry. (Coincidentally, if all goes well the Gunners will be the first international tour to return to Australia later this year.)

People aren’t born knowing how to whistle; it’s a learned skill. So choose your whistling weapon wisely. 2021 is a tricky time for wolf-whistlers… while whistle-blowers are rightly having their time in the spotlight.

There are sophisticated whistling languages in Europe. Silbo Gomero has been spoken/whistled in the Canary Islands for thousands of years.

If you head East from Spain, and lob into Northern Turkey, you’ll find farmers who for centuries have communicated across great distances by using what’s also known as bird language.

It’s hilariously hard to whistle when you’re laughing. Whistling is impossible when you’re crying.

Tears are being shed this week as Greater Brisbane navigates another lockdown and all Queenslanders have their human song muted under masks. One year on from last year’s shutdown, so many people are marking anniversary events with mixed emotion.

I like Christina’s approach. She couldn’t celebrate her birthday last year because she was in lockdown. Same again this year. So, she’s decided that neither counts and she hasn’t aged. Seems fair enough.

Funerals missed this time last year are marked with delayed sobriety. For many, the past twelve months are a blur. And then there are the postponed nuptials…

Remember my mate Lachie, who’s future father-in-law gave him a rain gauge? He’s had to postpone his wedding this week because of lockdown. He and his beautiful fiancé Gen should be frocking up and toasting married life. Instead, they’re cancelling plans. More tears…

Here’s something though, when you whistle, you make the perfect shape with your lips to kiss. So, if Lachie and Gen can keep finding a reason to sing their song together, when they turn and face each other, those whistling lips can kiss anywhere, anytime.


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