Music to my ears. Even if you don’t know the words. The importance of sharing the song in your heart.

February 14, 2012

The cleaner with the fluoro jacket and the mop was enjoying his work. I knew this, because he was singing.

“Sadie, the cleaning lady. La la la la you’ll always be a cleaning lady.”

The lyric-challenged rendition was taking place at the entrance to the shopping centre toilet block. John Farnham was under no great threat. But the mop-swinger was belting out the ultimate cleaning ditty with a grin.

It made the rest of us smile, as we stepped around him to go about our own business. Singing does that to you. Even ordinary singing.

There was a time, before i-tunes, when just about everyone sang in public. Pub patrons, and butchers, and barbers, and bus drivers. All sharing their favourite tunes. I don’t recall anyone complaining.

I grew up with blokes who didn’t think twice about tossing up a song. One would start, and the rest of us would join in. Loudly.

This would sometimes occur as we walked home, after an evening filled with cool drinks. We may or may not have been arm in arm.

Show me the way to go home. I’m tired and I want to go to bed. I had a little drink about an hour ago and it’s gone right to my head.”

It could be said that for our age, we had unique tastes in music. As well as the Aussie pub rock bands of the time, we extended our listening to the albums played by our parents.

It meant we gained an appreciation of some amazing story tellers. John Cash, Dean Martin, Elvis, Neil Diamond, Kenny Rogers, Tom Jones and the Eagles to name but a few.

Yes, there will be those of you who think I’ve just described the welcoming choir to the gates of Hell, but it matters not. We liked them.

We could burst into song at any moment. To the dismay of those around us with more sober listening habits.

Some of us still do, even in these advanced years. A great chum of mine will dust off his Seekers album after a long day. Patsy Cline if it’s a long night. And The Beach Boys are never far away.

My dear friend Greg Cary will play a little Jim Croce, or John Fogerty or Jimmy Buffett on his radio show, and I’ll be crooning along. Can’t help it. To the great amusement of my younger, rap-loving colleagues.

“Well the south side of Chicago, is the baddest part of town. And if you go down there you better just beware of a man named Leroy Brown.”

Maybe it’s the style of music today. Without sounding completely ancient, the tunes I hear the girls playing at home seem harder to harmonise. More complicated.

That said, the females in my house love to sing. All of them wander from room to room, warbling whatever takes their fancy.

Daughter Two takes the prize for most impressive vocal display each day. Shower time now features the radio blaring, on a hip FM station. Our neighbours would be well aware of this.

She does her own version of every song that comes on. Through soap, shampoo and conditioner. Maybe there’s hope yet.

It won’t take much to have us all making beautiful music again. Do your bit today. Belt out a tune at your desk, and ignore any strange looks.

Think of your favourite childhood melody, and sing it on your way home. Maybe give the kids a rendition when you put them to bed. Nothing like a laugh before sleep.

Better still, next time you get some old mates together, sing something you all know. You’ll be amazed at the memories that will flow. Especially if you’re struggling to find your way to bed.

“Everywhere I roam. Be it land or sea or foam. You can always hear me singing this song. Show me the way to go home.”

Voices I’ve shared my Saturdays with. London to a Brick, we all have a favourite racecaller.

February 4, 2012

I spent more Saturdays with John Tapp than any girlfriend. We had a date, once a week, without fail. Him at the track. Me having a cool drink somewhere.

He was the voice I grew up with. Sure, there were others. Ian Craig, Ray ‘Rabbits’ Warren, Bill Collins and Greg Miles. But they were just good friends. Tappy was my man.

My first memory of a racecaller goes back to the great Ken Howard. But only just. I was very young. Sitting around our mustard coloured kitchen table with Mum and Dad.

They would be listening to the daily double. Mum loved him. Dad would get annoyed. Especially when the famous phrase ‘London to a Brick’ came out. Even more so if he was losing.

The memories of Tappy are much stronger. Every Saturday, in the licensed establishment of our choice. We never doubted him. If he called the photo, we’d accept his decision. Can’t recall him getting too many wrong.

He made our rare wins so much more enjoyable. The bloke had a passion for every race he called. Genuine excitement when a good thing saluted. And he seemed to love Mick Dittman as much as we did.

Punters need a bond with their callers. Our job is tough enough as it is. No room for someone who leaves a horse out, or fails to share our optimism.

When I moved north all those years ago, the game changed. Tappy and I began a long distance relationship. He was still number one. But I found others.

Over time, the Queenslanders entered my heart. Especially sweating it out in Cairns.

No Sky Channel at home back then. So it was Wayne Wilson who painted the pictures for me at Eagle Farm and Doomben.

Again, that passion. It would jump out of my radio speaker. Every winner was special. Not that I was on many of them. Wayne made them all sound like champions.

It’s an art, the ability to make people far away feel like they’re trackside. Allow them to share in the joy of victory. I always had the feeling that Wayne was very aware of that in his calls.

I’m now honoured to call him a friend. Funny how this game works. That passion is still there, even though he’s retired. He loves the game, and all those in it.

With so much racing these days, getting such great coverage far and wide, we get to hear more callers than ever. Some reporting in from places that are dots on the map.

Most love what they do. But every now and then, I catch one less than enthusiastic with the task at hand. The class of horse they’re calling. Or the merit in the performance of the winner.

That irks me. Tappy and Wayne never did that. They knew that every race, no matter what it was, was important to someone. Maybe an owner. Maybe a bloke sweating on the trifecta numbers. Somewhere, there would be excitement at what was unfolding.

As long as the new breed of caller remembers that, we’ll get along just fine. Maybe even grow old together. Just like me and Tappy and Wayne.

The day I went to the beach with Princess Diana.

October 18, 2011

When reporting on Royal tours, one should dress appropriately.

Apparently, that doesn’t include pink shorts.

It was 1988, and I had been given the role of covering part of Princess Diana’s trip to Australia.

A very small part. Just a few hours. On Terrigal Beach.

The newsroom policy at the time was to have me out on location as much as possible. Possibly to maintain the sanity of colleagues back in the office.

Being radio, there was no need to be dressed up. In my mind at least. And given the totally inadequate nature of my wardrobe, that was just fine.

I did lots of work wearing shorts. From courts to council meetings, and the local league match of the round. Pretty much any job that took the boss’s fancy. No one seemed to mind.

We were issued with shirts, that had the station logo proudly emblazoned on the front. What we wore below the waist was up to us.

So it was that on the morning of this historic visit, I dressed like any other day. Daggily. Possibly without the use of an iron. White station polo shirt. And those pink shorts.

All I can tell you is, it was the eighties. Pink was in for blokes. Or so someone said.

Not that I wasn’t excited. Charles and Di were here as part of the Bicentennial celebrations. Images of their trip to the sand and surf  would go around the world.

I had been given clear guidelines on what was needed. Waffle on a bit about what the Royal visitors got up to. Talk to some gushing locals. And stay out of the way of those who knew what they were doing.

It’s true that there was no-one else in the press corp wearing pink shorts. I’m pretty sure it gave the Fleet Street lads something of a laugh.

The guest of honour was striking. Everything you’ve ever read and more. I still remember that yellow dress. And the shy, dazzling smile. But I have only the vaguest recollection of Charles that day. I dare say the rest of those on the beach might be the same.

She had her photo taken with some Aussie lifesavers, looking resplendent in their budgie smugglers. They managed to take the spotlight away from my skinny legs.

I’d like to think Diana noticed me. After all, she was a fashion expert. If anyone could appreciate my unique dress sense, surely it was her.

If she did, she kept it to herself. No so much as a mention in any of the Royal biographies.

It’s a long time ago, and my memory has faded with time, but I’m pretty sure we didn’t need special security passes.

There were thousands of people there, all enjoying the spectacle, pretty much going where they wanted. Some even came out of the surf to catch a glimpse.

How different it will be this week, when the Queen comes to visit.

Security will be stifling. There’ll be screening areas, and sniffer dogs, and heavily armed officers at every turn. A different time.

Royal watchers will be out in force, happy to be herded like cattle into secure zones. Flags will be waving. But it won’t be the same as that wonderful day with Lady Di.

For starters, Her Majesty won’t have her photo taken with anyone in Speedos. Actually, that might be a good thing.

If you’re part of the crowd, keep an eye on the media gang. Let me know if you spot a reporter game enough to wear pink shorts. Male, not female. After all, these fashion trends come and go. Diana would be proud.