Opinion: Of Arctic adventures and comfy chairs

FIVEaa's Matthew Pantelis shares his thoughts and attachments to his old but faithful comfy recliner.

WORDS: Matthew Pantelis

I recently watched a flick on the World Movie Channel called Arctic, the story of a 50-plus man stuck in a remote, northern tundra after his small plane crash landed. He was living in the fuselage, catching the occasional fish and dodging polar bears, while trying to get a signal to the outside world. I missed the start and don’t know if he’d upset the Gods in some way because after finally attracting the attention of a nearby helicopter, it was caught in a wind gust on approach and also crash landed, killing the pilot and severely injuring a passenger. 

The movie follows the man’s trek over following days, pulling the badly injured woman in a sled towards help through freezing conditions, still dodging polar bears. I won’t spoil the ending for you but I will say after scaling numerous peaks, trekking knee deep through snow while battling blizzards, the effects of frostbite showing on his fingers, surviving a fall through a crevasse and a narrowly missed chance of rescue, he was still very much in the middle of nowhere and at the very end of his endurance. When the credits rolled, I realised I had something very much in common with our hero – the struggle to rise from my recliner. It’s a battle that’s become increasingly challenging as the years have gone by but at least I stayed awake throughout the movie, a feat in itself these days.

Several weeks ago I succumbed to a good old fashioned cold, the sort where lethargy overwhelms, the type that leaves your diaphragm sore from coughing too much and enough used tissues spread across the floor to resemble the knee deep snow of Iceland. But it was an opportunity to binge on Netflix and I thought I’d catch up on the John Wick franchise. My old recliner, now with over two decades of loyal service, is still so reliable, not even the non-stop massacre of would-be Wick assassins from opening to closing credits in 3 identically plotless movies could keep me awake. Or maybe the orgy of death became as repetitive as the colour pink, in Barbie.

My wife tells me it’s time for Recliner 2.0 to come on the scene. The deep red leather tinge of my faithful companion is fading but, ahh, the memories. My boys grew up sitting either side on its wide welcoming arms, watching shows and movies like Thomas the Tank Engine, Pat the Postman (is there a more incompetent mailman?) Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Wizard of Oz. They viewed while between them I tolerated and with luck, dozed off. And there’s its charm, because there were times when the three of us fell asleep in its safe embrace.

But elegantly rising from its leathery depths is becoming increasingly problematic. To put that in less flowery terms, I now leap to my feet with the grace of a newly born giraffe taking its first tentative steps in the wild of the living room and this won’t do. A new recliner may be called for but I scoff at those automated chairs that have people parallel before a setting gently tips them forward out of the slumber position and upright onto their feet. “Those are for OLD people”, I insist, as I flail my way to a standing position. This is generally achieved over 30 or so seconds through a combination of contortion, determination, gymnastics and what any observer would assume is some sort of medical episode.

I now leap to my feet with the grace of a newly born giraffe taking its first tentative steps in the wild of the living room and this won’t do.

Mindful of my separation anxiety my wife has been trying to gently coax me into trying out replacements over the past few months but my heart isn’t in it and I feel as if I’m cheating on the oldest of friends. Despite ratings for comfort, I’m yet to find a recliner that feels quite as comfortable, with the grooves and springs in the right places. Other, newer models might have their fancy cup holders and electronics but nothing seems as practical and despite price offers and a free collection service, mine isn’t going anywhere. Why should it when there’s at least another 100 assassins in John Wick 4 to snooze through? No, comfort and rising elegantly be damned, I’ll make my own hazardous trek through an extreme snowfield before the recliner goes and at the end, I’ll need it more than ever. I can hear the leather calling me now, oh gentle sleep! Wake me in 20.

Matthew Pantelis hosts Adelaide’s #1 Evenings Programme, 8pm-Midnight on FIVEaa

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