The time's right for men to have a talk about their health
IT SEEMS unusual for a book to be launched in a gym but then nothing about author Henri Rennie could be classed as ordinary or usual.
The Ballina-based writer, journalist, director, actor and playwright has been writing since he can remember and has a been a playwright for more than 40 years - first adapting Aesop's Fables as a school play in Grade Five.
A published author, several times over, his first book, A Bunch of Old Bastards, was first printed in 2008, and The Wizard of Waramanga came next (the first in a contemporary fantasy series entitled The Books of Dubious Magic).
So why should such a man choose to launch his latest book in a gym?
Just as Rennie is no ordinary bloke, Move It Like You Mean It is no ordinary book and so Jetts Gym in Ballina Central Shopping Centre, just before the start of Parkinson's Awareness Month, seemed the perfect time and perfect place.
The book is the second in his series about men's health (although this one encompasses both genders) and the subject matter is Parkinson's disease. Henri said he hoped the book offered valuable information about the disease, including some strategies that may make living with the symptoms easier.
"A main message of the book is the importance of regular, deliberate movement in managing the effects of Parkinson's," he said.
That is something Jetts gym manager Kallum Fidoe was more than happy to get behind when Henri approached him about last month's launch.
"We are really happy to be involved," Mr Fidoe said before the launch at the end of March.
"We have regular clients with Parkinson's and other health issues, and we see the difference that being active makes in their lives."
So how does a man better known for writing plays and fantasy find himself writing about Parkinson's? It's another one of those Henri stories you don't expect. It wasn't through a friend or family member with the disease. Instead it started as a job revamping a website - though he does have a "mate story" that starts this latest venture into medical books, specifically books in plain English about men's health issues.
"This is the second in a series with more to come," he said.
"A few years ago I was standing in a bar with a mate. He said he had three friends who turned 45, two had committed suicide and one had wrapped his expensive car around a tree. He was turning 45 in a few weeks and he asked why men had mid-life crises at that age. I was a bit older than him and had survived turning 45 but I thought 'that's a good question'."
It was a question good enough to have Henri researching and eventually writing a book on men's health because he discovered that men really don't talk about health and other personal worries.
He said many men would rather die than seek help and so his book was born, taking out the doctor speak and medical jargon and reading more like two mates talking in a pub together.
And so when he was asked to work on a website outlining the resources available to Parkinson's sufferers on the Northern Rivers and read scary statistics - such as one in 300 Australians is diagnosed with Parkinson's and 38 more people are added to that list each day - he knew this would be his next book.
"It was going to be quick just using the information on the website," he laughed, saying that he had now talked to people all over the world and spent a lot more time researching.
And while the information in the book is up to date, Henri said research was ongoing and so the book was a "moveable feast".
The book has been written for people with Parkinson's, their carers, and importantly, for those who might be at risk, because while figures show that around one in 300 Australians are known to have Parkinson's, Henri Rennie is sure the real figure is much higher.
"The effects of Parkinson's are often very gradual, and not recognised until the condition is well advanced," he said. "The earlier it's spotted, the better it can be managed."