David Marriott was bored by day three of being confined to his Australian hotel room for quarantine.
Then his lunch arrived in a brown paper bowl and he thought: “Aha – that’s a hat waiting to happen.”
The paper cowboy was born.
Using the good quality paper bags in which his food was delivered each day, Mr Marriott, an art director on TV commercials, began fashioning an outfit.
He added a brim to his hat, and then came the waistcoat and chaps. Next? A horse, of course.
He found an ironing board in his cupboard and tied on a desk lamp for the neck and head, creating a skeleton.
Coffee pods became the eyes and nostrils. He named the horse Russell after an old dad joke: “Have you heard about the paper cowboys? They were caught and charged with rustling.”
The creative world Mr Marriott made inside his Brisbane hotel room became more intricate by the day as he added plot lines in video clips he posted online.
The Clingfilm Kid became the villain, out to steal Russell while he was sleeping.
Like Wilson from the movie Cast Away, Mr Marriott says Russell can also be a sounding board.
“It’s an existential conversation, quite philosophical,” he says. “Like, why are we here? What are we doing?”
And he has given the Rydges hotel staff a laugh by asking that Russell be taken for walks.
“It’s been cheering everyone up,” he said. “The hotel staff, they’re in hospitality but they have all these guests that they can’t see or interact with.”
The story behind Mr Marriott’s quarantine stay is more sobering. His father Harry had a fall at his London home and was taken to hospital, where he had an operation and was starting rehabilitation. But then he caught coronavirus.
“I was really lucky my mum and sisters were there, and were allowed in to see him,” Mr Marriott said.
“I would Zoom with him at 3am. To see him deteriorating was heartbreaking. But I was able to say goodbye and make peace.”
Mr Marriott flew over from Australia for the funeral, but like other Australians returning home, he was required to quarantine at a hotel for two weeks.
Because quarantine guests are considered potentially infectious, their food is delivered in disposable containers and plates that are discarded rather than recycled.
But Mr Marriott said he has barely thrown anything out since his stay began, and has only needed to order in a few extras like sticky tape and clingfilm.
And when he leaves on Saturday, he is hoping to take Russell and his other creations with him.
He said there had been interest from a film centre which wants Russell in an art show. “He’s a bit of superstar now,” Mr Marriott said.