She was annoying at first. Flighty, flirtatious, forward, always wanting to provoke me. I knew that she was attracted to me – handsome beast that I am. But hey, I am the one who always takes the lead. That’s my role. That’s what I’m bred to do. Not her.
The old girl occasionally coaxes me into the car for a trip to visit her brother and sister-in-law at the seaside idyll of Somers. Tedious journey that it is, with the old girl cranking up Midnight Oil and singing along, the destination proves salubrious. Bracing sea air and a dip in the briny provide a good reward.
Unfortunately ‘she’ is there – Evie. She arrived at this residence a couple of years ago, much to my disgust. Before her there was the matron – Jasmine. Stately and aloof. She reigned when I was a rambunctious pup. It made no difference when she snapped at me, I just kept coming back for more. Now l know that she was just trying to teach me some manners, albeit from the comfort of her daybed.
But Evie was something else. Pretty? Yes. Lively? Yes. Pain the derriere? Dogdamn right!
Last week I accompanied the old girl on the appallingly long trip to Lakes Entrance. Again I had to endure the torture of listening to the old girl sing. The sultry strains of Amy Winehouse were slaughtered by a rasping wail, the owner of which struggled to negotiate the delicate semitones and nuances of jazz. But it only served to enhance my anticipation for the rewards which would include unlimited access to my neighbours’ children’s food, and of course numerous walks and swims.
But I was aghast. When we arrived l saw that ‘she’ was joining us.
The intimacy of shared discoveries on the early morning walks with my old girl would be marred by ‘her’ exuberant hustling. When we ventured out for our carefree beach strolls, I would be besieged.
Luckily she was tied up a lot during the day and I could escape, but when the opportunity arose she was persistent. Kissy kissy here, bodily contact there. It didn’t stop.
I was disgusted. I demand respect. I’m a proper boy, an elder, an exemplary beast. It was exhausting. It was exhilarating.
And then we left.
Back to Pakenham with its enclosed yards and structured routines. No access to untended food. And no Evie.
The yard looked lonely. I could dogdamned well sit where I wanted without being jumped. But in the end -I miss her.
Falling over is not funny. Actually it is hilarious. One minute you are operating in the troposphere at about head height and upright. The next minute you’ve disappeared from everyone’s eye-view, your bum greets on-lookers and you have shot-put your head into the turf.
Alternatively, you have been gracious enough to keep your face upright as your derriere plumbs subterranean depths like a rubberised double meteorite shattering civilizations of ants.
The really funny thing is that the fallen one doesn’t concern themselves about compound fractures, fatal bleeding or shredded threads – the foremost concern of the fallen one is – “who saw it?” The fallen one has unwittingly sacrificed themselves as a source of entertainment and mirth.
So I fell. Not quite sure how it happened; trying to find my keys in the bottomless pit that is my handbag while negotiating uneven ground and juggling oranges and eggs maybe. It was Friday, I could have been frantically and blindly racing in the opposite direction of work. My feet could have been celebrating that by doing their own thing. I was pretty certain that I wasn’t controlling them.
A fall happens in slow motion. You are catapulted into the air thinking “this is new.” Your surroundings blur like nebula. For moments you float like Dave in 2001:A Space Odyssey, pondering the calamity that is about to unfold. And then gravity finally and uncompromisingly smashes you into terra firma – and when the ground is firmer; the more terror.
I was lucky. I fell in front of a parked four wheel drive. Normally, vexed by these expansive vehicles that make parking near them impossible, I actually rejoiced in its bulk as it hid my undignified departure from the vertical.
Well almost. One lady called from behind the car “Are you alright?” The answer is always “yes,” said with an insouciant joie de vivre. “Ha ha ha, I do this every day.” “No broken bones?” she inquired while suppressing a snicker, I assume, as I wasn’t actually facing her with my face, if you know what I mean. I sprung up like a jack-in-the-box. If my leg had broken into three separate parts, I still would have boinged up like Skippy.
There could also have been some youths loitering in front of the supermarket and indulging in what youths do; wait for someone to fall over and chortle.
Any way who cares? I’m in good company. Helen Mirren has come to grief a couple of times, once in Cannes and another time at the Berlin International Film Festival. She plopped down like a collapsing soufflé amidst her ruffles and flounces. (Although I can’t be sure that her graceful slips compare to my ungainly spill.)
Former Presidents and Prime Ministers have ’come a cropper’ on more than one occasion. Former US President Gerald Ford decided he would try some human aerobatics as he took a nose dive on the last few steps of Air Force One, landing on the Austrian tarmac minutes after the plane did.
Former Prime Minister John Howard took on the footpath to sharpen himself up before an interview in the west a few years ago. And who could forget Julia Gillard submerge her noble nose into the Subcontinent due to some dodgy kicks. “I’m alright, I’m alright,” she chirped as she popped up like a spring lamb.
The thing is that you always remember a fall, either yours or someone else’s. It effects you physically and mentally. You realise that you can be reduced to a damned fool in the blink of an eye. Self control deserts you and what little authority you had has gone down the gurgler.
I remember assaulting the asphalt as a grade oner, having a little crybaby cry and then congratulated myself on producing the copious amounts of blood.
I remember the time when I took Jack for a twilight stroll. After a few close calls as he hurtled towards me from thirty metres, aiming to corral me like I was a headstrong Hereford heifer, he finally slammed into my side. My knees buckled and before you could say “bon appetite,” I got a gobful of grass.
Misstep memories happen to anyone at any time. My daughter and I were exiting a cafeteria one fine day via a set of steps. An elderly woman and her daughter were coming up the said steps. Unfortunately the older lady unaccountably careered off the side and into the bushes. The woman’s daughter and I raced to help the misdirected lady, who thankfully was quite jovial (embarrassed, mortified) and unhurt (probably sustained a broken hip.) My dear daughter’s response, was a very human response. She laughed.
We probably started falling over about six million years ago, making the other hominims guffaw into their hirsute hands. A thigh bone found in Kenya indicates that it was about then that our forebears began to stand upright as well as have the ability to climb. (presumably they plummeted out of trees too.) Standing enabled them to pick fruit from higher branches (although if you can climb?) It also meant that they could free their arms to carry things such as tools and mobile stones. By standing up, the hominims looked more imposing. (Except when they were falling down.) About two million years ago they had just about nailed it as their anatomy gave them the ability to run long distances in the open spaces, tripping as they raced.
Jack never trips over and you rarely see other animals that stand, like apes or bears go ‘a over head.’ It seems that humans provide that rare form of theatre.
The other day I saw an article about a Kenyan professional marathoner who was running in the woods in Maine. He encountered two black bears. He dashed away from those bears like a comet. He didn’t fall, but imagine if he had. Those two black bears would have had a field day. Gees they would have laughed.
It’s the Queen’s Birthday long weekend: Winner winner chicken dinner I say. To celebrate an extra day off work, for this weekend only, I adopt a temporary pro-monarchist stance. It’s also the opening of the ski season. Brrr. And it is the weekend that the celebrated Queen’s Birthday honours list is released.
These quaint awards were instituted by Her Maj in 1975 in recognition of high achievement and service. They superseded the British honours system. In 1976 knights and dames came galloping into the mix. In 1986 the knights and dames went galloping out again as Australia embraced modernity. Then in 2014 Tony Abbott, in a fit of medieval nostalgia re-ig-knighted the knights and redeemed the dames, famously awarding Prince Phillip – yes that’s Prince Phillip, Queen Lizzie’s other half, a knighthood. Say what? This quixotic spectacle rattled even The Australian so much that when Prime Minister Mal arrived on the scene, he swiftly sent the knights and dames cantering into the sunset, again.
As I peruse the list of the lucky ducks who have made a hit with Queeny, I say to Jack, “it makes me ponder the use of such awards.” Jack doesn’t reply. He is course very egalitarian in his views, so I know that his response will be along the lines of – for dogs; goodness has its own reward in the shape of a pig’s ear. It keeps all dogs on a level.
But you can’t hand out pig’s ears to people of high honour can you? Some say yes, if it’s art. But you can’t make this ilk purse art of a sow’s ear.
People who do good things need to be appreciated and rewarded, even if it’s in the name of some ageing monarch who lives seventeen thousand kilometres away in renovator’s delight with seven hundred and seventy five rooms. (Airbnb where are you?)
I am all in favour of recognising doctors and scientists like Ross Garnaut who snared a sneaky gong. Such people have used their brains and skills to alert society to the perils of climate change or advance medicine or have researched for years to find cures for humanities ills. They have sought to improve our world in general. Big tick to you. You certainly deserve more than a pig’s ear. We should have images of you flashing on billboards or at the very least feature on sequined tee-shirts.
To the anonymous souls who take on foster kids, those who dedicate their time to feeding the poor, helping refugees, those attending to the elderly, sick and mentally ill – you are the glittering gems in the crown of goodness. Go to the top of the list.
Actors and entertainers. Yeah well. Nice movie an’ songs and all that. I’m glad that you’ve done well for yourselves earning gazillions and getting your faces recognised in one hundred and ninety five countries.
Promoters, sports folk, business people – um. And politicians. I’m thinking barrel – deep.
There are many in our communities who struggle, sacrifice and contribute to the smooth running of our society. You see every day – fellow travellers breathing in and shuffling up for extra passengers, frustrated drivers being remarkably courteous by allowing bozos into your lane, shop assistants giving an extra smile and a friendly word, doctors, nurses, teachers and parents all bearing up, fronting up, manning up, womaning up, coughing up, firing up, keeping up, making up, propping up and stepping up. These people need recognition too; the good, long-suffering citizens of our communities, in other words, us.
So Jack and I propose an award for the ordinary folk; the eponymous King Jack of Pak honours list. It will be given to those who face the daily grind while smiling through gritted teeth. And please note there will be no upgrade to knight or dame unless you are six hundred sixty years old.
Search the list to establish whether you qualify for an award, and if you do, cut out the certificate, shove your name on it and you can chuck a sickie to go with it:
List of qualifications for the inaugural Companion of the Order of King Jack of Pak (or Jack’s mate award):
For any member of the public who serve the public with a wink and smile (and a secret gin) when said public are chucking a ‘tanti.’
For any member of the public who has stood on a platform at 6.45am in four degrees, and not taken out a pistol when the 6.50am to Flinders Street has been cancelled.
For any member of the public who doesn’t broadcast their mobile phone conversations while on public transport.
For any member of the public who has travelled along the Monash Freeway in the last six months and not ended up in a mental asylum.
For any member of the public who has had to keep a young child quiet anywhere on earth.
For any member of the public who has supported a friend who has over imbibed and feels the need to expel the contents of their stomach into the gutter.
For any member of the public who has had to listen to a Hawthorn supporter complain about how badly they are going.
For any member of the public who has been a friend, or been kind, who has been supportive, or has donated, who has volunteered or has cared for someone who was sick, sad or lonely.
For any member of the public who has been kind to your pet.*
For any member of the public who has cried while watching Red Dog.*
For any member of the public who thinks Red Dog should have been given an Oscar.*
For any member of the public who thinks Red Dog is the best movie of all time.*
Flowing through reedy saltmarsh, where ungainly waterbirds stalk unsuspecting fish and the occasional haughty black swan is not too dignified to snag a tasty treat, is the eastern-most tip of the Cunningham Arm at Lakes Entrance. It narrows, hurrying beneath the Eastern Beach bridge and spreads grandly into a golf course waterway.
It’s a practice of mine to loiter on the bridge and be mesmerized by the hypnotic tidal flow. The water carries frenzied sprat, feeding above submerged reeds that yield deferentially to the current.
Jack places himself conspicuously on the bank, moving back and forth to catch the eye. Of course I have a stick. He knows the drill; he will fetch the stick midstream and swim to the other side and meet me there after I traverse the bridge.
But today I hesitate. Jack pads the muddy flats impatiently. My gaze is distracted by something floating close to the surface. It slowly flaps like birdwings in honey. Trapped beneath the surface, needing to be set free – it is a rectangle of plastic or paper folded evenly and curling through the surges of water. It’s five bucks. You beauty. I will set it free.
It drifts near the rocks on the southern side of the stream, but not close enough for me reach in and swipe it out of the drink without tumbling headlong into the swirling current. I search for a suitable branch to reign in my manna from heaven, my providential gift and place it into the warm, protective confines of my pocket. And this of all days – my birthday – finally something in my life is going right.
However, there are concerns, least of all the approach of some kids from the nearby camping ground heading my way. I hog the bridge so as to interfere with their view of the cash, because if they see it, they will be ‘in like Flynn.’
Luckily they are skylarking and so absorbed in their own mastery of stupidness that they continue over the bridge and towards the beach with nary a glance at an old girl and a dog.
But in their wake toddles another interruption in the form of a senior lady. We bid one another a wary good day and she continues across the bridge. But as she nears the end of the bridge she pauses and peers into the water.
Has she eyed the precious flotsam the stream is transporting? Move on old woman, the mauve moola is mine I feel like saying. I stake my claim by throwing the stick into the water near the note and Jack duly cooperates by flinging himself in, swimming toward the stick, and note, and out the opposite side.
His characteristic, enthusiastic lunacy at retrieving a stick can be a little daunting to a stranger and, suitably daunted, the lady moves off to more docile surroundings.
The littoral coast is clear. So I continue on the search for the perfect retrieving apparatus. There is nothing to fit the bill. If only Jack were a retriever and had been well trained in the recovery of five dollar notes. I feel his lack of training sorely right now.
I try to get Jack to swim near the prize in an attempt to induce it into his wake. But no dice. I know that if my daughter were here, she would chance her sea-water allergy and jump right in. The kids from the camping ground would have certainly plunged right in. But me? Useless. I try to make a plan.
So I stand there ‘wishin’ an’ a hopin’,’ which isn’t a strategy at all. It’s a mamby pamby, sit-on-the-fence cop-out… and a damned annoying tune.
The fiver flutters languidly, as though it is gesturing “save me, save me dear old birthday sheila, I am yours.” I watch longingly from the bridge. It curls, almost lifeless and forlorn.
From the banks it drifts toward the middle of the stream. Right below me. One last animated billow and then it surges. Abruptly, it becomes hostage to the outgoing tide. Away it floats. It is at the point of no return. It is bound for the lake, for the entrance, for the sea, for the realms of Ahab’s world.
Well it was just a fiver. It would only buy me a weak latte and a sixteenth of a scone.
But I ponder. It wasn’t worth a lot. But to me, a free fiver finding its way into my pocket symbolises a stroke of good luck. Now it has gone – that’s unlucky. The saying goes that you make your own luck. I could have waded into the depths of the stream, or I could have negotiated the slippery rocks to make my own luck. If I had catapulted off the rocks, cracking my head open while the sprat lapped up the blood, or if I had suddenly found myself literally out of my depth, after wading in, and the current had swept me into the ocean to be hauled up by a salmon trawler, then would that have counted bad luck, or being a silly old bugger?
However, if I had dived like Jungle Jim into the depths and triumphantly grasped the lucre with my scrawny fist while shouting “Eureka!” then could I have bragged that I had made my own luck? Remembering the cash made an appearance out of nowhere to start with.
As I watch the currency being carried by the current past a curious swan, Jack sidles up to me, poking me with the wet stick. Let’s move on he says sagely.
Back at the house I receive well wishes and cards for my birthday. My sister spoils me outrageously and takes me out for a lovely lunch. My daughter spends the wee hours baking my birthday cake. I look at Jack and he looks at me and I have to acknowledge – I don’t need a fiver to make me lucky.
Jack hates New Year celebrations. That is – fireworks. From the moment the first sky rocket sizzles into the night and explodes like a drumbeat of doom pounding his doggy ears, to the last shrill pop of some joker’s illicit cracker, he cringes, cries and cowers.
I on the other hand am a child and love sparkles. This year I was able to catch glimpses of the fireworks at Lakes Entrance from the front window of the house where we stay. The more magnificent the rain of colour, the more thunderous the sound and the more anxious Jack became. I tried to explain how pretty it was and massage his tense back, but there was nothing doing, he wasn’t buying it. He was not convinced things would get better.
But enough is enough. Once the last whiff of burnt sulphur disperses, it’s time to put 2016 to bed forever, and forget that it had ever existed.
It was a crock.
My daughter was sick with endometriosis and unable to work for six months. My son had a car accident and wrote off his car. He had bikes and surfboards stolen from his flat. My dear Auntie died. My sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer. I suffered from an inflamed bowel and just before Christmas, the Government said that I owed their agency around five hundred dollars from six years ago. Woo-bloody-hoo.
The weather didn’t help. Australia was wetter than average and warmer than average – it was like living in a loony giant’s experimental hot house. Dorothea Mackeller would have been proud as the triumvirate “flood and fire and famine,” that appear in her poem My Country, danced about the land creating havoc. Heatwaves, bushfires, atypical northern flooding, supercell storms, national record breaking autumn heat, record breaking South Australian rainfall and, climate newcomer to the said state, tornadoes, spun emphatically out of control.
From within my rain battered, wind lashed, heat scorched little house, Jack and I occasionally flicked the curtains back and peeked nervously at the outside world to see if it still existed.
And it did. It was not the world I, as a flower child of the sixties and seventies envisaged. Those denim, donning days were embroidered with the silken threads of the pursuit of enlightenment. The quest for peace and love, the mystical and spiritual, and the rejection of the material became the mantra. The world of 2016 wasn’t like that.
2016 was a sad, shrunken year. A year riddled with protectionist, frightened, greedy, hate speech sprouted by a profusion of bloated bombastic, privileged blobs who ping ponged off each other, at angles no one seemed to see coming.
Jack and I hurriedly closed the curtains, hunkered down and dreamt of brotherly and doggerly love. I lit a stick of patchouli incense which infused the dark air and kindled a golden nostalgia. I bedecked Jack and myself with multi-coloured love beads, (which he attempted to eat.) A futile search took place to locate a scratched vinyl of Leonard Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan until I remembered that I had thrown out the record player and that Leonard Cohen was gone. Then we ate fondue. Ha – I’d never eat fondue, but Jack loved it.
So bugger off 2016. I’m glad you are over. The fireworks have stopped – or have they? Like Jack, I’m not convinced of that – or that things will get better. I can hear the reverberation of some cracker. So as they say in All About New Year’s Eve,* it may be a matter of – “fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy year.”
The first person to run a marathon was a Greek lad by the name of Philippides in 490BC. The battle-worn boy ran the forty or so kilometres through the Greek countryside to deliver a message to the good people of Athens about a home side victory against the pernicious Persians. He then promptly carked it. As far as I’m concerned this is the correct response to running a marathon.
But, as is often the case, I’m wrong. I watched a number of the good citizens of Melbourne (among them my son Matt and his friend Ben) run the forty two km Melbourne Marathon. They leapt, lunged, limped and lumbered to the finishing line. I didn’t witness anyone imitate the time-honoured heroics of Philippides when they crossed the line by clutching their breast and crashing to the ground in a paroxysm of exhaustion. So I can only assume that Philippides or ‘Unlucky Phil’ to his friends, was underdone.
It is a gruelling event and to be perfectly truthful, I can’t believe people do it. Bloody good show. Some of the effects of the race on your body are; suffering a loss of up to two centimetres from your height (temporary), due to deficiency of fluid between intervertebral discs of the spine, loss of toe nails from the pounding of small blood vessels in the foot and lack of oxygen rich blood cells, sniffles from increased air flow, cramps, blisters, abrasions and chaffing. Oh and in Philippides case there’s the death thing.
The good news is that your hearing will improve with increased circulation to the ear. And you will be about two to five kilograms lighter. (Although given most marathoners are miniscule this may be moved to the bad news category.)
But on the plus side (not plus size) it is a definite advantage to be a skinny type (so back into the good news list.) The amazing Kenyans of the Rift Valley dominate long distance running. A new study has revealed that of the young, active Kenyans who are marked as potential long distance runners, the skinny ones are the ones who have the highest ability to maximise the amount of oxygen during intense exercise or VO 2 max. (And I was convinced VO 2 max was a new line from Valvoline.)
Even if you are not a stick figure there are marathon training programs that will guide you through the whole horrendous process and enable you to compete. They provide information like working up to the distance, keeping up the work rate and watching what you eat and drink (I do watch what I eat – it’s great to see the whole jelly cupcake go under my nose.)
However some runners dismiss these conventional wisdoms and do just fine. A method, let’s call it the Ben McKenna Method would have you visiting the Oktoberfest in Munich shortly before boarding an international flight to Melbourne and having a ‘light’ run in preparation for the ‘big one.’ It worked for him last year. He got to the finish line and came back for more this year. But kids, I wouldn’t try it at home.
Matt’s first marathon preparation two years ago similarly flouted long distance running protocols, given that he undertook the journey with a dodgy hip. Exhibiting his proud working class credentials by sporting his threadbare Yakka work shorts was handicap enough. But the major hindrance was definitely the dicky, clicky hip. I know a crook hip can be tiresome when you are lounging on the sofa like a life size Paddington Bear, but pounding on it for forty two thousand metres sounds like the most awful excruciazating. (I know that’s not a word, but it works for me.)
It says a lot about human endurance and it told me a lot about Matt’s. There is a difference between endurance and living. Some of us may live a little, and at some time in our lives most of us will be made to endure. We will battle to keep going. The pounding on the hard road of life will dominate our wellbeing. And it will be enough that we survive. We don’t have to revel in it or like it. But the ability of humans to tolerate and possibly conquer suffering is a testament to the human spirit.
It is uniquely human to choose to test your endurance or take on a challenge for no other reason than, “Because it’s there” as the great climber George Mallory claimed. I don’t see Jack practising to be a faster or stronger dog out in the backyard, just to be his better dog self. (Although he is perfect as he is.)
Of his endeavours on the running track Matt said that you “Just get out there and hurt.” Ernest Hemingway may have sat at the typewriter and bled, but all those runners who ran the marathon, or the half marathon, or the ten kilometres or the five point seven kilometres risked real blood.
Congrats to the winners Thomas Do Canto and Virginia Moloney but more importantly congrats to all whose those who slogged it out for the sake of it. Mallory asked the question “Have we vanquished an enemy?” and answered “None but ourselves.” So to all you runners, you rose to the occasion, conquered your doubts and bettered yourselves. And now you can all do it all again next year. That’s something that poor old Philippides didn’t get to do.
Once in a while things happen the way they are meant to. For those with the means or the brains, dream outcomes occur more often. But for battlers, and those bearing the weight of others’ excesses, the notion that ‘every dog will have its day’ is a falsity perpetrated by people who make greeting cards.
But yesterday that dog did have its day. After sixty two years The Western Bulldogs, the Scraggers, the Doggies or the plain original Footscray, the team who in the 1980s was on its knees with near fatal debt, won the AFL Grand Final, beating the glamour Sydney outfit – a quest so bizarrely outrageous that Victoria, the home of AFL football is today breathing a collective simpatico sigh of relief, disbelief and joy.
I don’t barrack for the Dogs – although I proudly declare them as my second team in honour of Jack – but yesterday I hailed each handpass, clapped each cunning kick, trumpeted tackles and gloried in every goal as though they were executed by my beloved Melbourne Demons.
The magic was not just that this club had waited sooo long for the ‘urn,’ or survived through the dark years of debt, paid off by loyal Dog supporters, but that this club played with heart.
Cliché? Normally it’s a cliché that teams play with heart. But this was the heart of a rabid dog that hadn’t had his Meaty Bites for a week. And why? The relationship which the coach Luke Beveridge shares with his players is an exquisite one. Dare I say it is love? Whoa…what? Tough guys ready to belt the opposition’s lights out with thumping, dare I say doggedness, playing one of the toughest Grand Finals I’ve seen. In the words of the perennially energetic Tina Turner – What’s Love Got to Do, Got to Do With It? Well a lot as it turns out.
Luke Beveridge showed it in abundance when he, upon receiving the coveted Jock McHale Medal, for the premiership coach, in turn presented it to the injured captain who took no part in the game or a chunk of the season in a physical sense, but did so in bucket-loads in a metaphysical one, the soul brother – Bob Murphy.
Geeze I cried. I was inconsolable when I saw that, even when Jack lay his paw on my thigh and looked into my emotionally contorted face, trying to figure out why humans were so bewildering, I cried. And anyone who didn’t cry when they witnessed that is a cold hearted sod or an actual dog. It was love.
So enjoy your triumph Dogs as we all rejoice in your special win. But remember -for now the Dogs are the Gods (on the banner, I did see) but let the Gods give a nod, to all the bods at the Gee, Melbourne must be next in line, waiting fifty years and three, we hope the cup gold and fine, will find its way to a Dee.
So yeah, Australia went to the polls on Saturday. For a scarily large number of Australians, it is a bit like picking a horse in the Melbourne Cup. For this scary group, the depth of knowledge about the protagonists is akin to the knowledge of general populous about a Cup Day field – zilch, nada, nuttin’.
Most people however, at least know the contenders. They are aligned to one party or the other. They can differentiate between a politician and a brindle pony, or Makybe Diva. Actually not Makybe Diva.
The main difference between Cup Day and Election Day though is in the outcome; the Cup produces only one gallant Cup winner, the election on the other hand…well, it produces people who proclaim to be winners, but actually aren’t.
The other difference is that the victorious Melbourne Cup winner gives a jaunty nod to the adoring crowd as it leads the other noble contenders back to the winner’s stall. It yearns for a celebratory chow down of carrots, a tender hug from its strapper and a refreshing hose down.
The self-proclaimed winner of the election on the other hand, lashes out at the other contenders and alludes to what is the equivalent of a steward’s inquiry. They don’t want to hang around for a more decisive outcome, while the dedicated, polling people grapple with their abacuses until the silly hours. They don’t want to hug anybody, especially a baby. And they probably should have a brisk hose down – with a water cannon.
We got no decisive winner, so it’s a strange thing that the reason for the Double Dissolution Election was to form a clear passage through both houses of the something or other bill… Was it a naughty union bill, or business bill thing, or banks, or was it to get rid of the ABC? I can’t remember. It must have been a secret bill, because I never heard it mentioned.
But, now that the winner isn’t, you know, like a winner, the public get the blame. AUSTRALIA VOTES FOR CHAOS, AGAIN trumpeted one headline. It’s like we, as a people acted in collusion to rabble rouse, or cause the most mischief to Australia – basically – to ourselves!
So we loitered in lengthy lines, scoffed salmonella streaked sausages in brittle bread, ran the gauntlet of prodding party pamphleteers, and struggled with serpentine senate papers, and for that we get lambasted for being recalcitrant voters.
If we are so rotten at voting, then I propose that all political contenders front up at Flemington every three years or so. They could get saddled up with the national debt, be locked into their political barriers and Gallup Poll until they drop. The last one standing can be the winner.
Christmas is here once again. So what is it all about? Well of course it is all about frenzied retail consumerism, legions of marauding school children let loose on the street to terrorise innocent citizens, the inhaling of inordinate amounts of food and alcohol and the bombardment of screechy, preachy, tuneless, brainless carols from every store and mall. Oh and Jesus’s birthday.
Whether you believe the story of Jesus or not (though he, as an historical figure has been mentioned by Josephus, dynamo historian and all round scholar and Tacitus, a dazzling – ‘don’t fool with me’ Roman historian and senator) it seems that we all make a big deal out of Jesus’s birth. So for a guy who was apparently born in a stable with the beasties nuzzling him and far, far from home, he has had a big impact.
If you subscribe to the story that he was a miracle man, preacher extraordinaire and had no sin (apart from overindulging in the odd cheeky white) or you believe he was a political agitator, lefty loony banging on about social injustice and equality, dabbling in a bit of herbal medicine on the side and had a messiah complex with a bit of razzle dazzle, there is no doubt that he has supremely challenged us by his breathtakingly radical philosophy.
Love your neighbour? Not in your life…have you seen my neighbour? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? Only if they’re nice back. Turn the other cheek. Nah ha, especially if the first whack is still stinging. And yet Jesus’s doctrine of obstinate love is consistently compassionate, disarming and profoundly powerful.
And hard. Damned hard. I can’t get through a day without being challenged by the tenets of Christian faith. But I am grateful for it piquing my conscience.
Jesus was possibly born in autumn in about 5BC to a young unwed mother who had made the perilous hundred kilometre journey from Nazareth with her betrothed for the Roman census. A scary star appeared, shepherds rocked up after the birth without a Jaffa, while mysterious Wise Men from the East upped the ante bearing gifts. It was an unusual confluence; and portent of things to come.
The dominant Christmas image is of a babe sleeping contentedly amid a disparate group, a being who at his entry into this world represents peace and unity, but who will galvanise those around him into sometimes wise and sometimes calamitous action.
It is this compelling scene that reminds us of the humility of Christ, his quest for harmony, rejection of worldly grandeur and material wealth. And not a shopping centre in sight.
So peace to all this Christmas – that is what it’s about.