Waterlogged memories. The change in rain, that’s driving me insane.

February 26, 2013

It’s true, my memory isn’t what it used to be.

I forget things, past and present. Something to do with age. And other stuff I can’t recall.

I’m sure the rain used to be different. There, I said it. Back when things were in black and white. Yes, it’s still wet, and cold, and .. rainy. But the way it comes down has changed. Hasn’t it?

The younger folk will be sniggering about now. He’s finally lost it, they’ll be texting to their friends. No surprises there. I’m just hoping fellow Old Farts agree with me.

As I scribble these words, it’s pouring outside. Again. Every other day it’s raining cats and dogs and other domestic pets.

No middle ground. It’s either a few drops, or a severe weather warning.

When I was a young man with long hair and few cares, there was steady, soaking rain. For days on end. No broken river banks. Just boring, uneventful precipitation.

In our early footy days, we loved the rain. We’d train in it, and play in it, and leave our saturated clothes on the carpet.

Love turned to hate if games were called off. We’d curse some sport-hating council pen-pusher, who would rather protect his precious grass than let us roam through the mud and slush.

As we got older, and we combined the odd night out before play, attitudes changed. There were a handful of times when our prayers to the God of Hangovers were answered, and games were abandoned.

I have little memory of major rain events from those days. Seriously, I just don’t remember them. Yes, of course there were floods. But not in my neighborhood.

Later, as a North Queensland resident, I saw rain of biblical proportions. That’s what happens in the tropics. But even up there, there would be times when we’d enjoy calming, uneventful falls.

So what’s changed? Some will jump at the chance to scream climate change. I’m not sure that’s it. Maybe it’s nature’s cycle. The steady stuff might be on the verge of a damp comeback.

Of course, I might have it all wrong. My memory might be gone for good. Damaged by moisture of a different kind.

When this latest forty days and forty nights finishes, keep an eye out for some normal, routine rain. And let me know. I’d hate to forget that I was right.

Where did all those candles come from? Coping with birthdays for the elderly.

February 19, 2013

I have a birthday coming up. It’s not The Big One, but it’s fair to say I can see that disturbing number looming large.

This one will be relatively painless. A few nice dinners, with no need for reflection. That will come next year.

There was a time when we celebrated our birth date with gusto. My 18th party was one such occasion.

It centred around one of the all-time great games of backyard cricket. We played over an entire weekend, and into Monday morning.

There was a large keg, and little else. Our dog, the tennis ball-chasing border collie, was exhausted by the end of play.

Players came and went, but the game rolled on. The effect of refreshments meant the pace bowlers lost their line, and the batsmen had trouble seeing several feet in front of them.

Someone told me they witnessed a streak as part of the event. Up the road, past the club, and back to the game. Without video proof, I still refuse to believe it.

There were other great parties around that time. A bunch of us were born within a few weeks of each other. Each event was a triumph.

Perhaps the highlight was a mate who ended his 18th night, clinging to the Hills hoist, while playing a harmonica. Naked. There were photos, which I believe have since been destroyed.

Through the years, milestones have been celebrated in various locations. The 30th was in Cairns, during a rain storm of biblical proportions. The pub we were in became a temporary houseboat.

Year 40 was marked at the races. A lovely day at Eagle Farm with some good chums. We then had Chinese, and were almost arrested, because of a dispute over the cake. Good times.

The celebrations since have been a little less spectacular. Hard to get too excited through the mid-forties. Still good fun, but no marathon sporting events or nude musical interludes.

Next year could be different. The old boys are emerging from their slumber, and starting to prepare. Once again, we’ll have a clutch of events within weeks of each other. Medical teams will be put on standby.

I’ll keep you posted through the year as the plans take shape. All ideas will be considered. Just one condition. No harmonicas.

My secret role in getting Black Caviar back to Brisbane.

February 16, 2013

The connections of Black Caviar were at a loss.

Everyone wanted a piece of the Mighty Mare. Offers were coming in thick and fast. Where should they take her next?

We were on our weekly phone hook-up. Yes, it took up some of my valuable time, but I was happy to assist. As a fellow winning owner (midweek), it was my duty.

Moody came on the line late. Some excuse about stocking the fridge with XXXX Gold, so they’d be icy cold for tonight’s celebrations.

When the master trainer asks a favour, it’s hard to say no. On the promise of a steak at the Breakfast Creek on his next visit, I agreed.

He wanted me to draw up a list, to help them decide where to take the Champ on her farewell tour.

The connections joined in, almost pleading with me. What could I do? As a National Treasure (her, not me) I had to help.

I promised them I wouldn’t share this information, so you’ll need to keep it between us. You know how narky those southern race clubs can get.

So here’s what I sent them. Let me know if you agree. If you don’t, contact the connections.

FLEMINGTON: What a wonderful track. But fair’s fair. She’s running there today. The joint will be packed. Once is enough.

RANDWICK: You know how much I love this place. But there’s so much construction work going on. Not a good look in the after-race photos. And the Sydney trainers will complain that she’s being offered preferential treatment. We don’t need the negatives.

MORPHETVILLE: Nice place apparently. But they turn the lights out after 8pm. How will we celebrate? And we couldn’t listen to that call again. No chance.

ASCOT: Now you all know I love my Perth racing. But it’s such a LONG way to get there. The Great One doesn’t need the trip. Apologies to my western friends, but it ain’t gonna happen.

CAIRNS: Don’t laugh. We could get BC out on the reef for some snorkelling. She’d love that. We’d need some fair size floaties though. There’s no better track to watch The Angels after the last, with rum in hand. Keep it on the shortlist.

And finally….

EAGLE FARM: The ideal choice. They’ll come from the Cape to Coolangatta. The Mighty Mare can spend some time in the sun on the Gold Coast, before heading up to meet the locals at Hendra. Moody can take his place on a bar stool at the Brekky Creek, and every Queenslander will have a beer with him.

It will be around Origin time, so the Mighty Maroons will shout her to dinner. Mal Meninga will give her a Queensland jersey, signed by the boys, that she can wear to the track each morning. And she can sit in the coaches box during the game.

Most importantly, the crowd on that Saturday will make her feel like the most special girl in the world. We’ll cheer till we’re hoarse, over the horse. No one does that better than a Queenslander.

The connections tell me they’re still studying my proposal. Such a big choice. No pressure. Although I will say, they’re saving that seat at the pub for Pete. I’ll have my steak medium thanks.

My brush with Drugs in Sport. How we performed on the original sports supplements.

February 12, 2013

It was the summer we decided to get serious about our fitness.

Three of us made a pact. For the first time, we would get fair dinkum with our training. Start the footy season in tip-top shape.

We turned the old garage into a gymnasium. A faded, heavy boxing bag took pride of place. We’d even tape our hands, as if we were in Rocky’s original gym.

Each would spur the other on, and go an extra minute. There was no shortage of sweat in that hot, dusty room.

When we weren’t belting the bag, we’d be running up a God-awful hill, next to where we lived. It got steeper at every turn. Calf muscles were ready to explode. Lungs screaming for air. No pain, no gain.

It’s true, we took our share of supplements. Every night, if we could afford it (meaning if we hadn’t lost our money mid-week at the Gosford dogs).

Our performance enhancing agent was steak. Big, juicy cuts of meat. Eggs too. The more protein the better. It’s what you did when you were in training. So our Dads told us.

It worked. Both my housemates played first grade that year. Having more ability than me helped them no end. I managed to wreck a shoulder in the lower grades early in the piece, thereby wasting all that good work. But our fitness routine had paid dividends.

The blokes around me who succeeded in sport didn’t need powders or needles. They just worked harder than the next guy. No shortcuts. No magic potion from some snake oil salesman.

I should add here, that the game in my time was awash with drugs. Few weren’t involved. Yet there was no probe.

The drugs were legal. Grog and smokes. We were there to have a good time with our mates.

I knew of players who needed a tipple before the game. One bloke carried a bottle of port in his gear bag. A half-time swig before returning to the fray.

Those were the days when the esky in the dressing room was full of cans, not orange juice and sports drinks. Few beers are tastier than the ones consumed after battle.

There were smokers, too. Some would still be puffing before they ran out. And they would certainly light up after the game.

We didn’t think twice about such things, because we knew no better. But there was no cheating. Too much respect for ourselves, and the game we loved. It was the same at coastal and country sporting clubs all over the country. A different time.

I’m not sure when sport got to the stage when hard work wasn’t enough. When scientists and clowns in lab coats started convincing coaches that they were a necessary part of the team.

As some players get banned in the coming weeks, there will be others working hard with their mates in backyard gyms. Sweating to a chorus of encouragement. In the hope of making something of themselves.

They’re the ones I want to go and watch. Because they know that the game is bigger than all of us. I hope they’re eating their steak.

From Jack Gibson to Gandhi. Words of wisdom to help us stop worrying.

February 5, 2013

There are certain stages in life, when there’s no need for worry.

The first few hours of life are usually stress free. Hopefully, the mind will be clear around the time of our final breath. With any luck, there are a few peaceful periods in between.

When was the last time you weren’t worrying about something? Not a care in the world. Can you remember?

After I left school, everything seemed to be where it should be. I’d recovered from my dad’s death (so I thought), had an amazing circle of mates, and was being paid actual money.

All we did was have fun. If there was something worth stressing about, no-one told us.

Things change, of course. We get older, and while we love our life and all those around us, things get complicated.

We cause our own problems. Put strain on our families. Our bodies start coming up with conditions we hadn’t heard of a decade ago.

I’ve been worrying too much of late. About things great and small. Worrying about my family. Worrying about the future. Worrying about surgery to beat a pesky cancer.

It’s painful, and exhausting, and in the most part, unnecessary. And I’m over it.

I’m reading books. Not just form guides. Basic philosophies, from a variety of authors, to live a good life, and make sense of things.

I’ve re-visited my favourite philosopher. A man who always seemed to find the simplest way. The late, great, Jack Gibson. Football coach, and graduate with honours from the University of Life.

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of him. He wouldn’t have cared in the slightest.

Jack collected quotes and sayings from all over the world, and eventually made books out of them. I have every one.

I dragged them out last night, to remember some favourites. Here are just a few. They might mean something to you too. Some are from famous people. Others from Jack himself.

If you walk towards the light the shadows are always behind you.

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you. LEWIS CARROLL.

Success in life comes not from holding a good hand of cards, but in playing a poor hand well.

A retentive memory may be a good thing but the ability to forget is the true token of greatness. ELBERT HUBBARD

Make a rule in life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy. You can’t build on it. It’s only good for wallowing in. KATHERINE MANSFIELD

All so true. There are hundreds more gems just like these. Those yellowing pages never fail to inspire. And bring back a smile.

You might have similar books that lift your spirits. Don’t forget them, when things get tough.

And here’s one more quote. I keep coming back to it, because it sums up the idea of living a better life.

It’s from a bloke called Gandhi. Pretty handy performer, back in the day. (Note to some of my regular readers – no, he is not a member of the Broncos Under 20 squad. Yes, it’s been heavy going so far, and you’ve done well to stay with me. I promise to lighten up next week).

Put this on the fridge, next to the emergency numbers and your video store specials. It’s worth remembering.

Keep my words positive. Words become my behaviors. Keep my behaviors positive. Behaviors become my habits. Keep my habits positive. Habits become my values. Keep my values positive. Values become my destiny. MOHANDAS GANDHI

Hard to argue with any of that. Even if he didn’t make the cut with the Broncos.