not just a game


* great Stuart Walmsley pic

This column was written before the grand final.

So at this juncture I’m entirely ignorant of the winner and frankly don’t much care who takes out the flag – Hawthorn or Fremantle.

Like so many people this season I feel deeply disillusioned about Australia’s No.1 spectator sport, barely managing to muster enough interest to watch more than a quarter or two here or there.

The interminable Essendon supplements saga – and more particularly the AFL hierarchy’s woeful handling of it – has tainted the game.

This season – the one that never was – will enter the annals as footy feeble.

It’s like all the ticker just went out of it as soon as someone tried to inject it with peptides and pig’s brain extract.

I admit I’m a jilly-come-lately to the sport.

But it wasn’t my fault I was dragged north of the border to live among a family of footy philistines shortly after birth.

Returning to Victoria as a 40-year-old I quickly discovered the importance of football as a kind of social glue.

In NSW people ask where you live so they can calculate the approximate value of your bank account. In Victoria they demand to know what football team you follow so they can see into your heart.

I chose Collingwood as my team after being press-ganged into the work footy tipping competition, without then fully understanding that – eventually – we must all choose a tribe and stick.

The Maggies seemed so unloved. Even the sports editor – an avowed Collingwood supporter – never backed his own team, though he bled for them. “They haven’t got a chance,” he’d say week after week.

For me it’s black and white you don’t tip against your team – even if in your heart you know they are in for a 50-point drubbing.

I proudly bore all the unkind jokes we Collingwood supporters endure like a born supporter, albeit one with all my teeth.

My passwords, my car, even the black and white laced wyandotte chickens, reflected my sporting heroes.

In 2010, the year of the Collingwood- St Kilda grand final replay, I was ecstatic simply to have the chance to watch them play another game.

It’s a far cry from how I feel about football today.

One of my girlfriends – an absolutely rabid Western Bulldogs supporter – agrees the game has lost a lot of its gloss.

She blames Essendon entirely, but I don’t think the buck stops there.

When a company is not performing as it should, the stakeholders should look to the CEO … if they can find him.

Just why is it Andrew Demetriou takes holidays overseas during the football season?

Like it only lasts 27 weeks, but last year he spent six of them on a European odyssey including the Olympics

This year when ASADA finally delivered its interim report into the whole sorry Essendon story Demetriou was in the United States on a junket and actually extended his stay longer than the rest of the AFL contingent.

However, he denies that during this crucial time he met with tennis honchos to discuss a post with Association of Tennis Professionals.

But in a volley with 3AW presenter Neil Mitchell, Demetriou admitted US headhunters had – at some point – dropped that particular ball in his court.

If only he took the job. Wouldn’t that be ace?

* link to original pic


cubby love


This week I’ve been privileged to view some very special real estate.

It is not every day a child will open their cubbyhouse for inspection, but my new young friend is justifiably proud of hers.

The eponymous Rosie’s Place is a bijou master-work of love, hand-crafted by her dad Vic and colourfully hand-painted by the seven-year-old occupant herself.

It was his first major construct.

Like most men I own a hammer and a saw for odd jobs, but I had never ever actually built anything,” Vic explains.

It was pretty much designed to her plans. She was definitely the project manager. I imagined something on a much smaller scale. I was like can’t it just have one storey, be like this big,” he says with his hand at waist height.

No, insisted Rosie, it had to be two storeys. There had to be stairs on the inside, instead of the outside. “It had to be tall enough for a grown-up on the top level because she wanted to share it with me from time to time. There had to be a balcony, plus a cat flap for Rosie’s feline friend Cranberry – full name Cranberry Marmalade – to come and go as she pleased.

We had never owned a place before and I promised her when we get our own place I will build you a cubby. And she kept me to my promise.

I thought it might take a week or two weeks and I am out here in 40 degrees with sweat coming out of my eyeballs … bang, bang bang.

It took me all summer.

It was a big labour of love. We had a rough year last year. Her mum and I split up, her grandpa died. I just wanted to do something nice.”

At a time of considerable heartache and upheaval the cubby project became a form of therapy for father and daughter as she worked out the new family dynamics between her estranged parents.

Taking me on a tour Rosie’s eyes shine with pride. “I have a kitchen clock that plays music and there is even a chair on the balcony. Last week I spent four hours in here just reading.”

It is just as important for children as it is for adults to have spaces they can call their own where personal belongings and special treasures can be stored.

From very young ages kids will seek out small child-sized places where they can hide away and as they grow older they like forts of imagination they can share with other kids.

The very word cubby makes me feel snug with memories.

Sadly in the increasingly space-constrained indoor world of kids governed by helicopter parents and endless by-laws the improvised cubby in the bush or shack in a tree is not an option. But must that mean even a child’s own backyard becomes foreign land?

Not so long ago I asked a Year 10 student on work experience in the newsroom if he had a Hills Hoist in the backyard of the home as we needed one for a photo shoot and was horrified to discover he genuinely did not know … had no idea though he had lived in the same house for most of his life.

I don’t know, I never go out there,” the would-be journalist replied.

Sometimes, don’t you just want to pull a sheet over and curl up into a small hole?

knit one, craft one

craft tree

Coming from a community where people routinely wrap brightly coloured crocheted cozies around tree trunks* and pom-pom bomb cyclone fences, I have a fairly high threshhold for craffiti.

Maybe it’s because there’s just not enough hours in the day, perhaps it’s the complete lack of the desire to inflict random knittings on perfectly good bicycle stands, but I just don’t see the point.

I was briefly charmed when a little stuffed toy dog complete with crocheted coat, bowl and lead appeared tied up outside the local library.

When I made a drop-off my own real dog would sit next to it like it was a friend and people would emerge cooing, “Oh, how adorable”.

But then a serial killer-in-the-making severed his ears and hung him from a railing, and this warm, fuzzy gesture turned into something just really damn depressing.

And I don’t think any real dog owner who saw it will ever feel quite the same way about the library again.

Of course craftivists do use soft, colourful yarn and home economics skills to make extremely powerful anti-war, anti-capitalist, environmental and social statements.

A group of international hobbyists created a huge knitted blanket of the Nike swoosh protesting the company’s use of sweat-shop labour.

Others like Danish artist Marianne Jorgenson marshalled thousands of crafters to create pink blankets for armoured tanks to protest against her country’s involvement in the Iraq war.

The possibility of ‘knitting your opinions’ gives the project an aspect that I think is important,” she writes on her blog. “The common element in the project gives importance beyond words.

For me, the tank is a symbol of stepping over other people’s borders. When it is covered in pink, it becomes completely unarmed and it loses its authority.”

Now I can’t knit, but I totally get that kind of yarn-bombing.

Then, on the last day of winter a very crafty type finally managed to elicit a response from me.

It happened when I was walking into the local supermarket just on dusk.

On the corner of the street outside there is a seat for weary shoppers.

In front of the seat across the pavement someone had written in chalk in gently looping cursive: “I really love life.”

A tub of giant coloured chalks sat on the seat. It was too much of an invitation.

Me too” I wrote swiftly lest some one be tempted take the 40-something woman apparently defacing the pavement to task.

I walked away grinning inside and out, though as days go this one – up until that point – had been nothing much to smile about.

Within 48 hours the pavement was a swirl of lovehearts, names, flowers, stars which flowed around the corner.

And, instead of being stolen, the chalks had been worn to stubs.

To give a stranger a smile is an extraordinary gift.

Melbourne artist Sayraphim Lothian specialises in doing just this through her Guerilla Kindness project.

By placing “sneaky, beautiful little works of art out as gifts for people who spot them” she aims to “inject little bubbles of joy” into the lives of passing strangers.

You know, I’m starting to think all that bicycle stand really needs to make it work is a great big bow.

* Image pinched from: