Wednesday, August 20, 2008

That was the Summer of 87 (when I secretly learned to love stew)

Originally uploaded by JungsPN

Forgive me taking a paragraph to write this - I don't know what community Sally McLellan is from, but I'd imagine it's a small one - that's not a knock, that's a good thing, there's something wonderfully Riana (a place in Tassie, not the singer of Umbrella, as they would think about her, in that you can see her on a hay bale sucking on a West Coast Cooler in a flannel. Anyone who's post Olympic medal winning interview contains the phrase "Shit, I could see a girl passing me but kept running my own race" is pretty much versed in local pride, likely has a small home town which ground to a halt to watch her and will have a big parade for her when she gets home and brilliantly, she still has to same coach she had in Little Aths (anyone who calls it Little Athletics is a snob) - Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, incidentally, the bronze medallist, was the cutest runner, but Sally, this blog salutes your fantastic efforts - I'm absolutely stoked to see Little Aths have it's moment in the sun. I loved going to Little Aths when I was a kid, you really learned a lot about yourself - mostly that you really stunk at Shotput. I loved sitting in the stand, hanging out with kids I was never going to see again, learning choice insults like "so funny I forgot to laugh", and then getting to run around like a spastic in the sun. This was way better than our school sports carnivals, which were embarrassingly full of pressure. At Little Aths, it was the last time that you could genuinely compete without fear of failure - at school sports carnivals, you really got conned that because they gave you a green T-shirt instead of a red one, you were genetically superior to the other kids, like East Germans powered by 100% cotton. Of course, no one wanted to be in blue house...that's just embarrassing. However, for running like you were in Little Aths in the middle of Natone instead of the Olympics, I love you Sally, and will gladly forsake Emma Randall for you (but possibly not that massive woman from the Ukraine in the weightlifting - she looked like a cuddler), dub you queen of the Games, and buy you a West Coast cooler next time you are in Hobart.

Anyway, enough of that - today, I found a cricket card signed by Bruce Reid in my little stash of cricket cards and football cards and the Orbis Italia 90 massive rip off set (don't ask). I think about, oh, 10 years ago, Chickenfeed (I so need to do a post on Chickenfeed) brought out a bunch of football cards for the TFL, the statewide football league here in Tasmania. It had all the stars of statewide league - Grinter, Sproule, Plapp, other people. I love these cards, as they are a brilliant way to express local pride - what better way to be proud of North Hobart than to have a North Hobart football card and get the player to sign it as they queue for a cheeseburger at the Parthenon (now I'm hungry). I have a card of Tarkyn Lockyer with his dog, but I don't have any of the umpire set from a few years ago. I don't have a Matt Stevic rookie card or anything. So Bruce Reid, if you remember, was a 28 foot tall fast bowler from Perth, Western Australia, who was always getting injured - had he stayed fit, he could have been as good as Rodney Hogg, but he was always getting injured on planes flying him on tour because he was too big for the seats and his back would seize up or some such nonsense. Now, he's mostly remembered for an over he bowled to Allan "Legga" Lamb (oh that unique Pom sense of humour) at the end of a one day match when England needed about 18 to win or something, and Legga tonked him to all parts of the ground to win the game for England. That was back in the days we (I support Australia in cricket - they had Boonie, and most of all, I'm Scottish, no way I could barrack for England) really stunk at cricket. In fact, in the same summer 86-87, when Australia just won a game, not the series, just a game, I was sent off to buy a bottle of coke from the weird shop at the end of the road that had the Kiss make up. This was a summer when we didn't have no Internet (thanks Kid rock) but we certainly had the inspiring gritty defiant straight batting of Allan Border and all the Bubble O Bills a boy could eat. Not to mention dances at the masonic hall. Sure, it wasn't making love down by the lake to my favourite song, but it was quite poetic in it's own way. In fact, had I been a lyricist of the mastery of Kid Rock, I could have written a ten verse classic about eating Eskimo Pies and listening to Bananarama. It was summertime in Northern Penguin...

Now, the reason this incident with Bruce Reid is so clear in my mind is because on that night, we were camping and caravanning in Bicheno, January 1987 - Bob Hawke in charge, the Bicentennary a year away, can't wait for the new Mi-Sex album and so on. Bicheno is a little town on the east coast of Tasmania, and it's fantastic - and absolutely full of fish. I love Bicheno, and it's many exciting adventures, all of which involve fish, fishing, or fishermen. In fact, in doing research to write this, just to make sure Bicheno was on the east coast (don't want to upset the locals) I was sad to find out they had a library - I thought that building was a bait shop. Just to put it into context, my main memory of that trip to Bicheno is...a fishing story. And for once it didn't involve the infamous Bicheno Bitch, a pretty horrible gigantor of a woman who sold bait down by the lake (you couldn't make love to her to your favourite song, she'd eat you). I was sitting on the docks, with rod in hand, and learning how to fish when my cousin, who if I'm quite honest I don't really like - that's probably a bit harsh, but there's a rivalry there, as there would be if anyone kicked a brick "on accident" (accidentally on purpose surely) into the back of your head - managed to catch a fish. This was incredibly annoying as I was doing everything that the how to fish book I had bought told me to do. I was pivoting the bait at a precise angle into the water and creating a beautiful arc with my Fisher Price my first rod bites. Then my cousins dad caught a fish, then my Dad caught a fish, then little Timmy, the blind mute and deaf boy who was sitting with a stick in the water caught a trout. Everyone had a fish but me. I could feel the pressure, the Bicheno Bitch was really laughing at me and I was really temper tantrumy, especially when people were trying to give me tips. I do wonder though if you can catch a fish with a Double Cheese Twistie to this day. Eventually, I got up, wandered off and got a Golden Gaytime, sat back down on the dock and...a fish! This was tremendously exciting, my first fish, I had conquered the mountain, I had won the day...until 1997, when my Dad told me that in fact, when I went away, he had tied a fish onto the end of my line, just to shut me up. "Ach yer wee face was tripping ye" he said, laughing his arse off. Now, whether or not my wee face was tripping me or not isn't the point - I still have never caught a fish, so one day, I'll go back to Bicheno and complete the circle of life (Simba). Or else I'll just read about fish in the library...

So on this trip, we ended up sharing a caravan with a couple of people who loosely we call relatives - and Bicheno wasn't exactly Las Vegas, although LV would kill for the fishing - so when night-time came, there was really nothing to do. Except listen to the radio, or a Creedence Clearwater Revival tape that seemed to come free with the caravan. It was alright for me, I had my Bananarama and Icehouse tapes on the walkman, and the power of my own imagination. Well, my imagination was dimming, given I had just discovered cynicism, and any time I thought of playing for Collingwood, a voice in my head would tell me I wasn't very good, but it was still quite good. My Dad on the other hand, he was bored off his skull - all he had was his beer and his radio. Worse, because it was a small caravan, when one person went to bed, everyone did - and our relations went to bed at like 8pm. And lie staring at the ceiling, counting the time...8:17...8:18...And that was how he missed Allan Lamb and Bruce Reid, which because he supports England he would have thought was really funny, because he had to be in bed. Not me though - I not only heard it, I saw it as well - because I found a way to sneak out the caravans emergency exit, and then headed straight to the local pub where the Bicheno locals and their buxom teenage daughters would feed me stew and coke. My Dad still doesn't know this - he spent the next day collecting firewood in a filthy sulk, until my Mother had to chastise him for his own face tripping him - and quite rightly, I considered it massive revenge for the fish incident, and kept goading him the whole holiday about if only he'd seen the Allan Lamb game, just to see if he'd snap. The night before he left, he said something I never thought he'd say, "Thank fuck we'll be back in Penguin tomorrow", and I saw him disappearing over the Bicheno hill, struggling with firewood, and drinking vodka straight out of a bottle, and kicking stones angrily as he went.

It wasn't drinking whisky out the bottle, not thinking bout tomorrow, but it was pretty rock and roll...swearing, drinking, trying to get out of the small Dad had a cooler summer than I, that's depressing...still, he never saw the teenage daughter...


Kris said...

Sally McLellan has struck me as the sort of girl that you would regret entirely spending the night with. It's the eyes you see, she's too... full on. Like when elephants go on rampages. You never want that look in a lady friend.

Don't forget the highlight of the summer of '87: England versus the West Indies at Devonport Oval in the Coast’s first ever Benson & Hedges World Series Cup match! Oh the pitch invasions! Oh the abuse hurled at Botham! Oh the yobs setting fire to the trees on the fringe! Oh Richie Richardson telling my brother to f@&k off!

Good times.

Miles McClagan said...

Ah Sally - her eyes do scare me, what being 21 and full of wrinkles, but I admire her little Aussie battleness. It's like all of Natone is behind her, or something.

I was at that game! My Dad was up the back of the stand as the only person supporting England and was almost killed! Then he forgot where he's still quite hip to say "I saw the greatest ever team to play cricket...lose to England and John Emburey was Man Of The Match..."