Nobody panic. There’s a boyfriend in the room. Just keep him away from your Father.

August 30, 2011

This must be handled carefully.

No need to be silly. A father should remain calm and reasonable.

Apparently.

There’s a boy on the scene. I’m told it could be serious. The real deal.

All this time, I’ve been keeping watch over The Teenager. Doing my best to keep those crazy high school kids in baggy shorts away. Seems my surveillance has been on the wrong daughter.

While The Teenager fights them off with a stick and waits for Cody Simpson (young pop singer in baggy shorts) to discover her, the little sister has been growing up.

Yes, Daughter Two has been struck by Cupid.

I know this because she told me. She was very excited about it. So much so that she failed to notice my knees buckle.

The Treasurer, who reads me like a dog-eared book, was expecting such a reaction, and caught me. It’s becoming a habit.

This is not quite the traditional tale of love and romance. More a Grade Six version.

A deal is in place with one of her best friends. The boy’s current girlfriend. But not for much longer.

The lad has declared that he likes Daughter Two instead. So there will be a handover, much like sharing a chocolate muffin at first break.

The ceremony will take place on Friday. Everyone seems quite happy with the arrangement. My head was spinning.

We asked if this had the potential to cause problems with their friendship. No, she said. The other girl is fine. She’s moving on too. Everyone’s a winner.

As I pondered the generosity of the younger generation, I was advised there was a video that I needed to see.

We gathered around the laptop, to see a skinny blonde boy dancing. It must have been hot that day, because he wasn’t wearing a shirt.

It was him. A smooth-moving eleven year old with protruding ribs and footy shorts. And his own YouTube page.

Daughter Two was giggling like a … schoolgirl. So too The Teenager. Even The Treasurer was enjoying it. They thought he was putting on quite a show.

I was speechless. When he wasn’t strutting to the music, he was talking to the camera. About everything and nothing. In his lounge room. Where does a kid get that sort of confidence?

It would seem I’m about to find out. We’ve having Daughter Two’s birthday party next week. And he’s invited.

Each night we receive strict instructions on how to act. Most of the directions are aimed at me.

Don’t ask him questions. No bad jokes. Avoid any talk about his dancing. Don’t mention the footy. Most of all Dad, DON’T embarrass me!

As if that would happen. I’ve promised to be on my best behaviour. All I’ll do is have a simple chat with him. Father to Dancing Boy. What could go wrong?

And there’s one more thing. A girl’s first relationship is a delicate matter. Privacy is important. I’d hate for anything to go wrong. Do me a favour and keep this between us.


The secret guide to finding winners. Does anyone know where I put it?

August 27, 2011

Over three decades, I’ve developed rules and regulations to find winners.

Stop giggling. This is serious.

The idea is to stick with them religiously. Forget the tipsters and coat-tuggers. It’s all about maximising returns.

There’s a slight problem. Sometimes I forget.

This can be blamed on excitement. And yes, refreshing cool drinks may be involved. Then there’s the old age thing. Or all of the above.

To help us all, I thought I should write them down. Grab your pen now. You never know when you’ll be in need of another laugh.

Ok, here goes. Back the best jockeys. Thank you Captain Obvious, I hear you call. But it’s true. If only I could remember it.

I try to be wary of apprentices. I like small children as much as the next bloke. But I don’t generally give them my cash.

That is, until some generous trainer sits the kid on something I like. I then convince myself that the youngster is a Beadman in the making. Wham. Rule #1 out the window.

I’ve had plenty of wet track theories. They work for a while, and then they don’t.

I’ve tried lightweights, and leaders, and greys. And grey lightweight leaders. No luck.

The best I’ve done on the heavy is the brief period I followed leading wet track sires. Until I forgot who I had to follow. Feel free to help out at any time.

Something I’ve always done is back wet track duffers once they get back on top of the ground. Especially after a stretch of ordinary weather.

It’s amazing how many bob up at odds. If you see duck eggs in the wet track columns, and the sun is shining, get on for plenty.

My other favourite punting habit, this week anyway, is finding the Second Up specialist. Solid second up form becomes a pattern. And if they keep missing out second up, no matter how good, don’t back them. One of the few things that works for me.

Here’s another one to take to the bank. Like us, horses have their favourite tracks. Lets call it the Chief De Beers theory. 20 wins at Doomben; zero wins anywhere else.

If they haven’t won at a specific venue after a handful of attempts, take it as read that they won’t. Ever. If it’s Mooney Valley or Warwick Farm, double the knock.

Take a good barrier every time. You’ll hear experts say they can win from the carpark. They can’t. Not if I’m on them anyway.

There are plenty of form lines I have no idea about. Zilch. First starters heading into Spring get me time and again. Especially good horses resuming.

If I back them, they tail off. Being prepared for the Cups apparently. If I ignore them, they fly home at double figure odds. Always gave him a chance, says the trainer with a sly grin.

I’m constantly confused by overseas horses. A bit like Chinese opera.

I study an event over 8 miles in the fog in Northern England, and try to line up the 3rd placegetter with the field at Flemington. The exercise usually ends with strong drink.

They come here and win, of course. And I’m never on them. If you have the secret, let me know. Then leave quietly.

So there’s a list of all the things I do know, and a few of the hundred I don’t.

If you are reading this wrapped in a tight white coat, and actually plan to follow these ramblings, it’s time to take your medication.

If that doesn’t change your mind, and you have so much spare cash you don’t mind throwing it into the breeze, try this one today.

Melbourne Race 4, number 4 – Satin Shoes.

Top jockey, solid second up record, and winning form at the track. Three ticks. Except the barrier is rubbish. We’ll go with it anyway. See, I’m forgetting the rules again. I can still hear that laughing.

Finally, if it’s raining where you are, you know what you have to do.

Find that grey lightweight leader from England with a famous sire and a top jockey who loves the track and will improve from run number one. Now pass me my medication.


Old blokes sing and young blokes dance. The perils of a night at the pub.

August 23, 2011

The loudest singing was coming from the two oldest blokes in the crowded pub.

Yes, it was well past our bedtimes. We just couldn’t help ourselves.

I’m tired of the city life. Summer’s on the run. People tell me I should stay. But I’ve got to get my fun.

It’s what happens when old mates catch up. No shock to many of you.

The Dragon theme song was given a rousing rendition. At our table. To the bemusement of those around us.

So don’t try and hold me back. Ain’t nothin’ you can say. Snakes eyes on a pair of dice. And we got to go today…

When order was restored, and the tunes returned to this century, we got to talking about serious life matters. Like how pubs, and those who frequent them, have changed.

Our reminiscing was taking place at my favourite Brisbane pub, The Caxton. You may have heard of it. Next door to the city’s most famous footy stadium, the old Lang Park.

If you’re from another land, don’t worry. It’s just like your favourite. Picture the place that makes you feel good as soon as you walk through the door.

Everyone should have a hotel like that. In any city, there’ll be one place that puts you totally at ease. The barmaid might even know your name. Cue the theme song from Cheers.

I should add here, management of the Caxton wouldn’t know me from Adam. So this isn’t about getting a free drink. Unless of course…

I’ve always been attracted to hotels with soul. Granted, in some places you had to look hard through the dust and the grime to see it, but it was there.

Gents of my vintage tend to talk at length over refreshments. Solving world issues. Re-writing footy history. We do this by sitting, or leaning. For hours.

Males of the younger generation seem to like dancing. Not so much sitting or leaning. How do they tell their stories?

The young fellows are also supremely confident. When not busting moves, they actually TALK to girls. Even if they don’t know them. And the females seem to like it.

Thirty years ago, that just didn’t happen. Not in our circle anyway. We were too busy sitting and leaning.

My first memory of a drinking establishment goes back to an age where those of the fairer sex weren’t welcome in the main bar.

On a Friday after work, Dad would drive us to the local. But he didn’t like drinking inside without mum.

He’d find a spot for our old Holden in the car park, disappear for a minute,  and return with a tray of drinks. A beer, a shandy, and a red lemonade.

Mum would open the glove box, and they’d balance their drinks on the lid. I’d gulp my soft drink in the back seat, trying hard not to spill any.

Dad stopped going a few years after that. The Friday ritual moved to our backyard, under the famous Orange Tree. Everyone was welcome.

After I turned eighteen, it’s fair to say that a great amount of time was spent on licensed premises. A few cool drinks, punting and playing pool. What a catch I was.

(If The Teenager and Daughter Two happen to be reading this, that last bit was a lie. I totally made it up. All I did as a young man was study hard and clean my room.)

Come to think of it, I might keep the rest of my pub stories for another day. When the young folk are in bed.

It was great to catch up with an old chum the other night. But it might be a while before I get back.

It’s hard for a veteran party boy to admit it, but home is as much fun these days. The deck with the comfy lounge has become my Orange Tree.

You won’t see much dancing. Possibly some singing before bedtime. And lots of talking to three fun ladies. Until they get forced inside by all that noise.

Take me to the April Sun In Cuba. Ohohoh. Take me where the April Sun gonna treat me so right. So Right.


Million dollar baby. The trouble with famous parents and tight genes.

August 20, 2011

The midwives would have been lining up for autographs. Mum was a freak. Dad one of the best ever.

Baby was a bouncing 52 kilos. Heavier than some of the jockeys who’ll end up riding him.

Can you imagine how jealous the other youngsters at trackwork will be, when he lets on who his parents are?

They booked the Royal suite the night Lonhro put his best moves on Makybe Diva. What a match up.

They were two of the very best. Champions. And big shoes for junior to fill.

A confession here. I’m no breeding expert. I’ll back the progeny of my favourite sires, but that’s about it. I can tell you more about Mister Ed than Seattle Slew. Actually, Mister Ed could tell you himself. How did he do that?

Anyway, back to the Golden One. This is something special. A match the gurus are salivating over.

I enjoy it when dreamers fork out a million for a young horse at the sales. You have to admire their courage, and the thickness of their wallet.

It’s the ultimate gamble. No guarantees in this business. The size of the prize tag doesn’t mean you have yourself a winner.

So much can go wrong. Sometimes they don’t even make it to the track. Imagine trying to explain that to the missus.

John Singleton is one of the great breeding dreamers. Every match is carefully thought out.

He once showed me a strapping youngster at the Gold Coast sales. Bred from his beloved mare Sally Magic.

She’d run second in the 1999 Magic Millions two-year old classic. Beaten by the hulking Testa Rossa. Singo hates running second.

He decided the best way to win his own race, was to play matchmaker. With the placegetters. So Testa and Sally became more than good friends.

In Singo speak, this compared to getting Ian Thorpe and Giann Mooney together, so they could produce our next Olympic flyer. As convincing as he sounded, I’m pretty sure that never happened.

Anyway, the racing union produced the well performed galloper Publishing. He won a couple. But not the one Singo wanted.

And that’s the problem at the top end of the breeding business. As foolproof as a plan might be, it doesn’t always work.

Cheapies and no-names can still win. Even in our biggest races. Australians love that. We can buy a share with our mates, and dream. All without breaking the bank.

You and I won’t own the Lonhro-Makybe Diva colt. That’s ok. He has a long way to go. And there are plenty of others to go around.

He might be a champion. Or a dud. Time will tell. But can he talk? Now that would be worth a million.


Gifts from a Father to his Daughters. Sizzled snags, and freaky feet.

August 16, 2011

It’s amazing what makes a father proud of his daughters.

There are the usuals. Academic excellence. Sporting greatness. Anything that might attract riches to accelerate an early retirement.

And then there’s how they like their meat cooked.

When you’re talking classic BBQ fare, my girls are in the Well Done camp.

Only the blackest of steaks. Charred snags. It’s enough to bring a tear to a weekend chef’s eye.

None of this medium rare stuff. Like their Dad, they want to know that the beast being eaten is beyond saving.

It’s a trait you’d expect from a beefy son. Instead, my very feminine daughters are holding up a family tradition.

It surprised me at first. And for some ridiculous reason, made me happy.

Dads like to know that they’ve passed something on down the line. Especially to the females.

Boys are easy. They usually have the same bowling action as the old man, and enjoy similar taste in action movies. Carbon copies. Girls are different.

To discover that like me, they’ll turn their nose at any chop that isn’t on fire, was a satisfying moment.

No surprise that all this careful evaluation of family habits came to me while I was burning meat on the deck.

You may be aware that the mere mention of BBQ in our house is accompanied by a cool drink. Two if the gas happens to be turned low.

That could be the reason I started thinking of other things that The Teenager and Daughter Two have inherited from their dear dad.

It would be nice to think the list would include items that the Good Parenting manual spruiks. Respect. Manners. Consideration for others.

Or Toes. Skinny, ugly, protruding Toes.

Mention this to the youngest one, and her usual dazzling smile will go missing. Something of a sore point.

It’s true that my feet aren’t the highlight of an impressive anatomy. Extended family members have barred me from exposing any flesh below the ankles.

Fork Toes, they call me. Such insults from my own people.

Sadly, Daughter Two has them too. As much as I adore her, I must admit those feet are pretty scary. Long, and bony. Don’t tell her that though.

She has also made the outrageous claim that I have a head not dissimilar to a melon. And that the Huge Head gene has been passed down to her.

The Treasurer says the area above our neck is nothing like the bowling ball being suggested by others. Her soothing words work for me. The girl is having none of it.

The Teenager is a little luckier. She has normal feet, and a head of regular proportions. The benefit of being in the image of her striking mother.

Between them, they’re loud, and they laugh lots. They have a love of family, and a desire to look after each other. We’re happy with that.

It’s a bit early to tell if either has taken on my party habits. Let’s hope not. A beautiful young lady belting out a Kenny Rogers classic might not the ideal way to trap an eligible gent.

Still, he’ll be a lucky lad, the bloke who eventually wins the heart of one of these fair maidens. No steak he cooks will ever be too tough. And the snags can sit on that hot plate forever.

A few tips for the boys though. No mention of the melon. And don’t complain if someone happens to keep her shoes on.


Personal betting scandals, and how to stay calm while being fleeced by a sweet old lady.

August 13, 2011

The TattsBet boys are laughing at me. I just know it.

Gathered in a room, counting their cash, slapping thighs every time I have a wager.

They get me every time, the betting agency lads. And it’s all to do with Fixed Odds.

Confused? You’re obviously not punting enough. Let me explain.

Those humble race fans who bet on the laptop in their favourite comfy chair, are now blessed with choice.

We can flick between tote odds and fixed price odds, at the click of a mouse.

Those in the know will back a good thing on Friday at a fixed price, before the rest of us are aware said neddy is a certainty.

The smart operator makes money out of this, because prices can vary greatly.

I’m not that smart operator.

I step the wrong way. Constantly. The sound you hear is those money men chortling.

If I back something on the tote, the fixed prize blows like an Ekka westerly. Wrong choice.

Lock something in on the fixed odds five minutes out, and the tote price will balloon.

I can back a winner and still be yelling at the screen, accusing faceless people of a foul conspiracy.

Family members find this amusing. Winning should be fun, they chorus. Which helps my mood no end.

I have history when it comes to betting disputes. The results are rarely good.

One of my first encounters with a bookie almost ended in fisticuffs. Nearly thirty years ago.

I was young and fit, with a spring in my step. He was old and grizzled, with a heavy leather bag slung over a shoulder. The smart money was still on him.

I had backed a horse called Gaelic. Or so I thought.

It saluted, at lucrative odds. I cheered, and pictured what it would be like to afford steak that week.

With correct weight declared, I strode to his stand with the hand-scrawled ticket. No computers back then.

He looked at it, and handed it back. Wrong horse son, he drawled. You backed Gaelic Yacht.

Indeed, both horses ran in that race. Gaelic Yacht needed a winged keel to get close to them. The despised outsider. And I didn’t back him.

I made this point, forcefully. The bookie, who was enjoying a battle he was always going to win, pointed at the ticket.

In his Tutankhamun-like scrawl, I saw something that resembled Gaelic. And at the end of it, to my horror, was a Y.

It was a deliberate sting. He’d fooled the young bloke. I was shattered. No steak for me.

Ever since, I’ve double-checked my tickets. Read them back aloud, to the amusement of those around me. Just to be sure.

One person I could never argue with was my SP bookie. Or his mother.

He was a legend at our footy club. A star of days gone by.

He didn’t take our calls on race day. Very clever. That job was left to his mum. A sweet, elderly lady, who we’ll call Mrs Smith.

She knew how to bake, and knit, and lay off the shortener at Randwick. And she had a lovely telephone manner.

We’d call from the pay phone at the pub. No matter how close it was to race time, she’d ask how you were. Family good? Fine. Now, what would you like to lose your last few dollars on?

Settling would be done at training every Tuesday. Usually great incentive to do extra laps and stay out of sight.

Back then, there was no confusion. Or choice. You won, or you lost. With the help of a little old lady.

One thing they never did, the SP man and his mum, was laugh at me. Possibly because my poor choices helped build them a new home.

So I have this message for the TattsBet chaps. Give a bloke a fair go. Stop changing my prices for your amusement. Let me lose in peace. And do you know where I can buy a cheap steak?


A hero, but not in his home town. The Officer who’s missing his family.

August 9, 2011

Meet my new friend Gary. Wide as he is tall.

Gary had been carved out of a decent block of granite. His US Navy dress uniform was sagging under the weight of battle decorations.

We were having lunch, with a few hundred others, on board his ship. He was kind enough to invite me to share his small table.

He may have been concerned that I was about to spill my over-loaded plastic plate onto the shiny deck we were standing on. Like any good officer, solving problems early.

We began chatting. He called me Sir. In every sentence. Such courtesy wasn’t necessary, but I wasn’t game to argue. He had biceps capable of hurling me to the other side of the river.

Gary loves Australia. Told me the drunkest episode of his life took place in Sydney, on his first tour.

His favourite memory of that night is how some Aussies carried him and his buddy back to their ship. I reckon those doing the carrying must have been  weightlifters.

Two junior officers joined us. The Sirs now came in triplicate.

These two were almost as thick-set as Gary. For a brief moment I lost sight of the sun.

They had promotions pending, and were banned from the grog. Gary teased them with an icy cold Australian beer, which he demolished in seconds. They shook their large, bald heads, and smiled. I could tell they looked up to him.

The junior giants moved on, removing themselves from our table of temptation, and Gary started telling me a little about himself.

His career in the Navy started 22 years ago. He’d been around the world several times over. Lots of war zones.

Last year, he’d been at sea for 270 days. About 9 months of the year away from loved ones.

He hasn’t been at home for Christmas Day since 2006. Following orders, in another time zone. I told him my girls get upset if I’m not sitting with them opening presents by 5am.

Gary laughed at that. And he wasn’t complaining. But it was clear that missing such important events was troubling him. The downside of dedicating your life to protecting others.

For just a second, I thought the tough-as-teak Navy man might shed a tear. His daughter had just turned 16. And he wasn’t there. He sent his love, long distance, over the phone.

She understood. Proud of what dad does. But not before she reminded him that it was the sixth consecutive birthday he’d missed. Since she was 10. That’s a lot of cake.

Her phone call had him thinking seriously about the future. We stopped talking, as he gazed across the river. It became clear that under that giant exterior, a heart was aching.

We stood in silence for a while. Then Gary outlined his grand plan, for when he returns to civilian life. He wants to train security officers. Maybe join the office of Homeland Security. Even his local police force.

But to do that, Gary would have to move. His voice lowered, as he told me that there was too much racism where he was raised. Still.

This proud African-American, who had risked life and limb for his country over two decades, wasn’t seen as a hero in his home town. Just another black man. No place to keep a family.

So sad. On his ship, his second home, colour and ethnic origin mean little. As long as you pull your weight, you’re part of the team. Everyone fighting for the same side.

It was time for visitors to go. He flashed a smile, shook my hand with his giant paw, and thanked me for sharing lunch. The pleasure was all mine.

I said that if he had time between fighting wars and soothing daughters, I’d like to keep in touch. He thought that sounded like a fine idea.

Through e-mail, we’ll keep tabs on how life pans out. He’s promised to give me a full description of that birthday party. And how the family settles into their new home, in their new state. They’ll be lucky to have him.

I admire my new friend Gary. So sad that a blind few in his own country can’t see that he’s a hero. His daughter will remember though, when he’s producing giant gusts to blow out those candles next year. I’ll let you know how he goes.