Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The West: sport, more sport


It’s that time of year again, when the big sports merge into one great paroxysm of sport and more sport.

It’s disgusting, the amount of sport on free-to-air television and from all seasons.

The only way to discover what season you’re in is to go outside and see for yourself.

Trouble is, I do love a good sport and not just the big two, cricket and Aussie Rules.

No, it gets worse.

I love all-gender swimming, running, jumping, hockey, rugby union, table tennis, lacrosse, surfing, handball, netball, basketball, volleyball and if they are on the telly then I have to watch a little just to see how good the game is and if it is in a state of intense competition with all players fit and firing then I can’t get to bed until 3am or even later if it is the World Cup.

Yes, the World Cup added soccer to my list and I couldn’t get into a delightfully made bed in a small motel in Dunedin, New Zealand, because of the Socceroos game against Italy.

A lot of people look at me, which is fine, it’s when they raise their hands that they worry me.

And when they look, those who know me, or think they know me, or know someone who looks like me, they sometimes say: “What is this with you and sport? You are a cultured man, with fine artistic sensibilities, yet you seem to have a perverse fascination with the brutal arts.”

Oh, I forgot to mention boxing.

This is the big one. This is the one that really gets folk fired up: “You love boxing? Are you mad?”

Some don’t wait for the answer, assuming they know it already and as they leave the room I don’t call them back because there’s not much I can say in my defence.

I have no defence.

And we all know, those of use who watch boxing, that defence is crucial.

But this is not a column about boxing, that’s another column, because I have a defence, of sorts, not really a defence, more an analysis of a psychologically disturbed aging baby boomer whose parents gave him boxing gloves one Christmas and watched in admiration as he beat the living daylights out of anything that moved.

Now, let me say, please, that I do not think that a love of sport in any way negates a love of art and culture.

Think Ernst Hemingway.

Ok, forget Ernest, what about Damon Runyon, Mick Jagger, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sir Elton John, or Gideon Haigh?

Don’t recognise any of them?

How about Reg Cribb? Now there’s a cultured man, writer of plays, films and small scraps of paper.

Last Train to Freo was a work of Mr Cribb’s and he has been called a “chronicler of our times”, which means he has observed stuff most of us walk past with our heads facing north while shoving icecream in our faces.

Mr Cribb loves football.

He and I have stood together in the front bar of a dilapidated pub engaging in a conversation about some long-dead Greek philosopher while marvelling at the ability of Chris Judd to slip through a marauding pack of behemoths.

Given the propensity of humans to batter the hell out of each other over anything from an imaginary line in the sand, to a few barrels of oil, an insult, or even who has the largest collection of weapons of mass destruction, then thank the gods for sport.

At the very least, while we are engaged in sport we are not beating the hell out of reach other, unless, of course, that is allowed under the rules of the particular sport, or your team loses

Which brings me back to my dilemma, which particular sport?

I’ve got to get out more, get away, turn off the telly, leave the building, use my legs, a car, a bike, anything that will take me away from the torment, the inability to decide which one to watch.

I’ve got to have some down-time, some time to smell the roses, prune the roses, or remove the roses because they drink too much water.

Either that or play a sport.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The West: love and Katanning


I was in Katanning last week.

It has nothing to do with this week’s offering. Just thought I’d mention it.

But now I have, I may as well go on a bit, since, it seems, going on a bit has become one of the characteristics of this column.

It is not the place it once was, Katanning, no way, a long way from it.

Well, it’s still on the same town site, with many of the same buildings and thank you, Katanning, for hanging on to those fine structures.

If you want to see a handsome looking town, with a sense of heritage, of the past, of from whence it has come, there are a number of them, but make sure Katanning in on the list.

I can remember back in 32, or 47, or more likely one of those years after the year I was born, walking upright, eating, probably talking, not necessarily making sense, but certainly able to remember what I did yesterday, when Katanning was not the place it is now.

If you said to someone: I was in Katanning last week.

They would respond: Why? Is there someone wrong with you?

Not anymore.

It has, they say, the most culturally diverse community in this vast and handsome state of ours.

Not only that, in the local library is a young dude with enough energy to sell her excess to Western Power, sorry, Synergy, create a separate power grid and supply the entire Great Southern.

Not only that, you can buy a cup of coffee in town to better the one I bought the week before in Rokeby Road.

This week’s column, by the way, is about love.

But I’m not ready yet.

If you do drive down the Great Southern Highway and turn left at the sign for a fine example of the ancient craft of public building, don’t forget to drop into Mungart Boodja, an art gallery displaying the modern art of Noongar painting in the Carrolup style.

Inside you might find a man who could paint the world a vision of itself as it should be.

Ok, I’m ready now.

Love. That’s what this column is about.

Apparently there was a day this week when I should have remembered flowers.

I didn’t. I was busy in Katanning, or thinking about Katanning, or writing about Katanning, or missing Katanning.

This year is the 30th anniversary of my marriage to Hildegard, which is not, by the way, her real name.

Someone once told me, after I had taken Hildy’s name in vain in a public setting, that loud mouths such as me should leave their partners out of it.

So I do. In a manner.

Hildy knows I talk about her and write about her, but she, also, would rather I referred to her as Hildy.

Anyway, Hildy has been to Katanning. Just the once. A sad story. The marriage nearly ended there and then.

Sorry, I thought I’d moved on from Katanning.

Hildy and I are still in love. Isn’t that amazing, after 30 years of hell?

No, not hell, a long way from hell. We’ve had it good. We’ve been blessed. And Hansl, our son, also not his real name, but correctly spelt, is proof of our successful union.

He is, of course, a genius, a university graduate, high-income earner, tall, handsome, unattended, built like a Katanning farm-house, but does he visit, does he call? Yes, he does.

Hildy and I met in Katan, sorry, in Israel, on a kibbutz, in 1976 and we got married late the next year, in Perth, because the immigration department had her on a list of illegal immigrants.

And just to spite those bureaucratic bastards, we’ve been together ever since.

One of the first towns we visited during what I called our honeymoon, more a trip down south to see an old mate who promised a good weekend with plenty of beer and a side of lamb, was Katanning.

Hildy was bit suspicious, given I was vegetarian and drank spirits, but she was new to Australia and thought it best to go along for the ride.

She hasn’t been since.

Don’t say anything, she doesn’t know yet, but next week I’m taking her back.

I can’t wait to see the look on her face, because now, after all these years, you can feel the love in Katanning.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The West Australian, Saturday, Weekend: climate change


I don’t know if you’ve caught up with the latest news, but the planet is heating up.

Yes, this one, the one we’re on.

Some of us, I know, occasionally, live on other planets, but even those of us who do have to drop back into this one if we want a glass of water.

A lot of people poo-hoo and I quite enjoy that, because it takes me back to a time when poo-hooing was popular and an art form.

In this case I refer, of course, to a poo-hoo of climate change.

Well, I have only one thing to say to those folk, the poo-hooers: Take a look around you, buddy!

First thing you’ll notice is that there are more people than there were this time yesterday.

They are increasing by the minute and there is no better example than the inability to find a parking space on Rokeby Road outside your favourite shoe shop.

It can get worse.

My partner, Hildegard, said that when she went shopping in Holland recently there were so many people in the street that when she went to blow her nose, someone had beaten her to it.

Hildy was in the Land of Dykes for Christmas and it was the hottest winter on record.

Oh yes, minimums of -2 degrees Celsius and balmy days with maximums around 10 degrees.

It was disgraceful, Dutch folk throwing off their doonas in the middle of winter and walking in the streets.

Not only is global warming destroying climates, it’s causing the disintegration of cultures.

This brings me back to ours.

Everyday, I am reliably informed by a government department, thousands of Victorians and others lost and confused charge into this great state of ours looking for a place to stay, 24-hour shopping and oversized bananas.

It wasn’t enough for them to send us their kookaburras, rainbow lorikeets and tinned jam, now they have to send themselves?

A lot of them arrive in an exhausted state, in an exhausted state.

And I meant to say that twice, because, let’s face it, we are pretty tuckered.

It takes a lot of energy and resources to dig up what we have to dig up and ship it to where we have to ship it in order to keep this great nation off its knees.

And the arrivals are exhausted because of the walk from the border, where they had expected everything to be handed over, including a four-wheel drive with trailer and boat attached.

I don’t know about you but I don’t have a science degree, in fact, I failed chemistry, physics and geology, all on the same day, so don’t go asking me for the scientific facts.

But, I do know stuff.

And so do you.

Here’s a thing you can try tonight when you get home.

First, climb into bed on your own and notice the under-cover temperature. Then ask the rest of the family to join you, or even a few near neighbours.

To warm it up even more, engage in strenuous activities, eat fatty foods to encourage the production of certain gases, run a lawnmower over your carpet and build a small coal-burning power-station.

Yes, you’re right, in no time at all you can dump the doona. Why? Too hot. Now imagine millions of bodies just like your mob, all under a massive doona.

It’s no wonder we’re losing our cool.

If everybody on the planet did nothing, just stood still, or lay down on a quiet patch of soft grass and took shorter breaths, that might help, but it isn’t going to happen, even if the fat lady sings.

We’re not made like that. We’re more like lemmings than lemmings.

And so what is needed is some kind of action and I am calling on everyone to join me tomorrow in a march on climate change.

We’ll meet in St Georges Terrace, march due west up the hill to Kings Park, down Thomas Street, along Stirling Highway, turn right into Eric Street and cluster at North Cottesloe.

By then the planet should be warm enough for a swim followed by a long-black at a beach-side café, if we can find one above sea-level. (Better arrange for someone to drive your car there, so you can get home.)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The West Australian, Saturday, Weekend: holidays & hair


I love this time of the year: I don’t work, I don’t sleep, I don’t eat, I simply lie about reading and then, every so often, mainly early or late, I get up and walk along Middleton Beach, Albany, until I find a good sized wave.

Then I plunge in the surf like I am a man who is not yet a man, more a boy who wants to be a man.

This is where I am, Albany, for my summer break from everything but the life I really want, which involves all of the above and a few flat whites with any old friend I meet or even complete strangers.

It wasn’t always like this. In order to get here I worked hard, long and hard and before breakfast dad would drag us from bed, whip the flesh off our backs and then, only then, would he kick us in backside until flesh grew back.

All right, dad was a good man and he only made us work until our flesh bled and then he let us play cards.

But that’s not the point. The point is that when a man was much younger this time of the year was full of work, the holiday work, in the bins, down the mine, on the farm, in the shop, on the back of the truck, wherever and whenever in order to make the money you needed to fund the activities your parents would have nothing to do with.

Once I worked in a post office. Well, not in, but out of. My job was to deliver the parcels that arrived from all over the planet, usually badly wrapped and spilling.

I delivered them on an old motor bike that should not have been allowed to use the name. It was a malicious beast and as soon as the relief bike arrived on the back of the manager’s ute it would splutter and start and make me look a liar, a cheat and a student who knew nothing about motor bikes.

Which I was.

I was also once a student who knew nothing about hairdressing, still am, which is why I have never taken a job in a salon, for men or women, or dogs.

My mother, however, is a woman, for which we are eternally grateful.

Sorry, I digress.

My mother is a woman who has always presented herself as knowing everything there is to know about hair.

When I achieved that age when boys are handed a book by their fathers and told to go away, read it and come back with any questions, my father was nowhere to be seen. It was mum with the book and it was called: Hair Today, Success Tomorrow.

As far as mum was concerned, hair made the man, the girl, the person.

“Without groomed hair,” she would say, “you might as well be Wally or Crispin.”

Wally and Crispin, I should explain, were two men invented by Findlay Campbell. Findlay, by the way, was the man who stopped World War II, but I haven’t got time to go into that here, suffice to say that Fin was a story teller and Wal and Crispy were his two down-and-out night-cart men, the blokes who emptied the pans at the back of every house in 1950s Bridgetown.

Apparently they existed and mum said their hair was the work of the devil.

And so was mine. It needed to be trained, subdued, controlled.

And so was my father’s.

Not once did I see my father leave a room without my mother grabbing a comb and digging it into his scalp.

“Don’t you dare leave this room without doing your hair,” she would say.

Dad would stand, dutifully, and allow mum to comb it one way, then another, until she found the perfect set.

Which brings me back to Albany, because while I’m down here, while students state-wide are working jobs to raise funds to buy stuff they don’t need, or want, I never comb my hair, not once, not for anyone.

I get out of bed, hit the beach, surf until my body shakes with the cold, change out of wet into dry, eat something, not much, read a book, nod off, wake up, hit the beach again, never once running anything through my hair, just the wind that takes it when I stick my head out the car window.

I’ve been here two weeks now.

My hair is matted and spiked.

When people ask what I do for a living I say: I’m a hairdresser.