Blame the floods on Pintuck. Owners who dream of having a mudlark.

March 2, 2013

From the outset, an apology.

All this rain of late is our fault. The floods are not an act of God. They can be blamed on a horse. Our horse.

The second he even looks like heading onto the track, dark clouds appear from nowhere. Blue skies turn to grey.

We learnt early on in the piece that he had precisely zero ability on a wet track. His giant hooves can’t handle the slush. You could throw a saddle on me, with pie in hand,  and I’d get through the going better.

He’s had five starts on rain-affected tracks. It was like we’d tied two of his legs together.

One run on top of the ground, he wins, like the good thing we know he is. I may have made a brief mention of it on these pages.

It was enough to make us dream again. Big things ahead. As long as the sun stays out.

But that didn’t happen. Because this bloke attracts rain, like Black Caviar attracts First Place Ribbons.

It was uncanny. And incredibly frustrating. Queensland’s big wet of 2013, can be traced back to our horse coming back into work. Almost to the day.

For an owner, the ability to run in the wet is one of the great unknowns. Sure, a pedigree that shows a family of mudlarks helps. But even then it’s no sure thing.

It causes so many bloody disruptions. And being such a large lump of a thing, any missed races set us back a furlong or three.

We drool over the thought of owning a wet tracker. Especially in a state where it rains on the hour.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to own Van Der Hum, or Subzero, or Doriemus? They grew a leg when someone left a tap running. The owners woke on a cold and wet Saturday morning, and danced a money jig.

Not us. We get scratched, again. He stands in his stall, and gets a little fatter.

Bring back the drought, I say. We’ve had enough of the rain. Spare all those hard hit cities and towns. And those owners who aren’t allowed to play in the wet.

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.

Making the footy more than a game. Getting that winning feeling with ponchos, pies and the kids.

May 1, 2012

Daughter Two did a quick count of available umbrellas, and frowned.

There were two on offer. And three of us. She knew being the youngest in the flock was going to cost her dearly.

We were about to set off on a walk to watch the Brisbane Lions. A ten minute stroll, that would allow us to embrace the excitement of our fellow supporters.

Not today, however. Any pre-game buzz had been washed away, in a near cyclonic rain storm.

Normally, this would pose problems. But not on a footy night. For the true supporter, it all adds to the experience.

The girls huddled under the green umbrella, with The Teenager doing the holding. This meant two things. That Daughter Two would get saturated on one side, and that I would be continually stabbed from the other.

To make things worse, the normally placid footpath that would take us to our destination, now resembled a raging river. Both girls managed to step in every available puddle within our first 200 metres. Shoes were officially soaked.

As is their way, the soggy situation prompted much laughter. They managed to disrupt every other fan trying to find cover. The angrier those around them became, the more they giggled.

The bloke selling the thin plastic ponchos was doing a roaring trade. We added to his bulging money belt, in the forlorn hope that his flashy coloured garbage bag would somehow become a protective shield against the wild weather. It didn’t.

Soaked, but with spirits intact, we found our seats, thankfully under cover. As the girls hit their phones, to alert a breathless social media world of their whereabouts, I reflected on how cool it is for a parent to take kids to the football.

It can be any code. As long as there’s a crowd, and cheering, and a pie stand. Even in the rain.

Dad was a mad rugby league fan, but for some reason, it was rare for us to make the trip to city grounds. Too far away, and too expensive. We did our watching on tv. Not quite the same.

My first memory of attending a big game is my uncle taking me to the Sydney Cricket Ground, about 100 years ago.

Uncle Tom was a member of the SCG. Still is. To be invited to the big smoke with him was a huge thrill. I had to dress up. No doubt Mum would have made a fuss about that.

From memory, it was Wests and Newtown playing in a semi final. Before a capacity crowd. For a country kid, it was an experience to cherish.

With a lifetime spent in and around league, I’ve been lucky enough to attend plenty of wonderful games in the years since. Origin classics, and Grand Finals. Even a Challenge Cup decider at Wembley. But there’s something extra special about joining the crowd with kids in tow.

I’ve been to games of all kinds with cousins, and nephews, and friends. Always enjoyable, especially the first time.

But when it’s your own children, well that’s something again. A rite of passage in the family relationship.

The girls have gradually developed their appreciation of big time sport. It’s taken a while. Now, they love being in the crowd.

They’re mad Titans fans, and have been to a handful of games. Sit near them in the stand at Skilled Park, and you’ll have industrial deafness before half time.

This night, we’d changed codes. Some tickets landing in our lap prompted an unexpected foray into the world of AFL. The torrential rain made things tough. But it was still thoroughly enjoyable.

What made me even happier, was how the girls appreciated the spectacle, even though they knew little about the game. That attitude will allow them to appreciate major events the world over.

We ate plenty of food. The Teenager even wolfed down a pie. Cheered the local boys. And ignored the drunken clowns a few rows back, who thought swearing as loud as they could was an amusing way to pass the time. My glare did the trick. They stumbled off towards a bar by the third quarter.

We left with a few minutes remaining. It was a thrashing, but the girls didn’t mind. We’ll give the new game another go, hopefully on a dry track. And we’ll be back to watch the struggling Titans soon.

There’s so much to occupy young minds these days. Just about all of it with a touch screen. Sometimes, we need to be reminded how enjoyable the simple stuff is. With or without a plastic poncho.