Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Ghost farewells Ratts.

Sadness is the first response. No matter what the head thinks, the heart is heavy. I remember all those years ago listening on the radio as a kid made his debut. We weren’t a great team then, we were building and this kid was another block in the foundation: A kid with heart.

I remember it was a week or two later I saw him play. Didn’t look much but he got the ball. Then I watched him develop and while others were hailed as champions this kid just kept getting the ball.

Something about the way he played spoke to that little kid in me. All I ever did was go after the ball. If I had have been a footballer and lived the dream of playing for the old dark navies, I would have been happy to play like Ratts: Tough as nails, uncompromising, brave.

And as he kept playing I started to notice his skills. The way he read the play, the delivery by hand or foot. There was more to this kid than I thought. I guess there is more to each of us than anyone thinks, that’s what is so great about sport – it reminds us that none of us are just the sum of our parts, that we can be so much more.

So then he came back and coached the team. He got to live out two dreams - To play and to coach this great club of ours. No matter what happens I hope he remembers that.

So Ratts is gone as coach but that kid still lives in my memory, still wearing the number 7, getting the ball, time after time. Always in the heat of it, thriving in the congestion.

Rats is gone but we should remember that just like that kid, as a coach he was always prepared to give it a go. I was never his biggest fan, but he is a Carlton man through and through, a club champion, a premiership player and now an ex coach of this famous club, and as the song says, they can’t take that away from him.

We should also remember that it is important people try, that people have a go. Ratts had a go – that makes him a success at the things that really matter. At sticking your hand up, at wearing the heat, having passion, testing yourself and taking the whack. He did so today, he took the whack, and he took it with dignity. He is ever the Carlton champion.

Thanks Ratts, thanks for everything and good luck.

Farewell Geppetto

The old man hardly dents the bed;
chest sinks into a sea-green song's depths.
The candle light flickers, casts shadows
upon the ceiling and wall as if friends
have gathered. The middle of the night
meets the dawn with a fork –
fool's choice offered at the last.

Pinocchio holds the withered hand
that once gently held him; strokes
the knuckles and nails, feels pain as his wood
atomically realigns into flesh - regrets
choices made along the way.

Strings force steps
but at least they offer
an uncomplicated path

'Existence is easy as a tree
or a log to be burnt,' he whispers at three
in the morning. The old man's chest
creaks like an old galley ship
then moves no more.

Pinocchio knows no prayers to say over the body
cannot see the spirit leave the flesh, feels
tears slide down cheeks that once sprouted leaves
instead; cries into the dark 'Geppetto is dead!
Now I understand what it is to be alive,
Geppetto is dead!’ His toes wriggle
to break past the floorboards
and enter the earth – seek sustenance
in a connection to everything abandoned.

Should have a paperback copy of Catalina in my hands by the end of next week. Give it a final read, if everything is okay it's ready to go!

Then it is setting a launch date and I'll let you all know where and when.

Whoo Hooo!

I am 17,000 words into the sequel!

Things are going well.

The Hanged Man

 She needed a cave, my arms
 are wings.
 She sought words, I continued
 to scream.
 She asked for quiet, a second
 I wanted a battle, a shot at

 We wiggled about in her black silk
 sheets, cacooning ourselves with flesh,
 hiding from days, pretending nights
 rolled into each other like waves,
 love leaking like blood; nightmares, dreams
 and regret strung up like Christmas lights -
 so the whole world could see what was coming

 everyone except me, anger
 makes us blind, deaf to all
 but inner voices, desperate
 for another round when the bell
 has rung, the door slammed shut
 and without ever knowing how
 it came about I sat beside the table,
 telephone in hand, dial tone,
 the New Greek oracle, signalling
 a finality the heart understood far
 more than the mind ever would.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

another old ghost of optus

 The Clampetts move to Carlton
(there's oil in them thar hills!)

Just sit right back and (yes, yes, I know, I am mixing sitcoms here but after last night anything is possible) I'll tell you a tale, a tale of a fateful trip that started from a suburban ground that lost is famous grip (etc). Oh how the poor have struck a rich vein! (see, back to the Clampetts now) As a kid I was dragged along to that horrible '69 GF when the Tigers knocked off my beloved Blues – in those days I thought with Big Nick and Johhny Goold we could not lose – and then again when the mongrel Tigers flattened Big Nick and whacked Southby from behind and the world stopped for all Bluebaggers in the after shock.

I have always hated Richmond. Bartlett's balding runs, Bourke's battering rams, Brown's whacks. I have hated the yellow and black but when you're down you keep the rage quite, you wait. You accept the smug comments and wait. You take the glib jokes, the snide remarks and  continue to wait. Last night the Bluebaggers unleashed the frustration of several ordinary seasons and showed the town they are back, back under lights on the biggest of stages, strutting their stuff, the mighty Navy Blue jumper glowing in the balmy night. I was there with 86,000 others screaming, there with my brother and niece, as we have been through the dark days, watching, believing, seeing the dark blue gold sprout and rise higher and higher into the glorious evening sky.

So I take joy in last night, hill-billy joy, kick up ya heels and dance a jig joy (and in the distance I see a small stone hut and the Tiger fans outside in the dark banging on the door screaming Wilma! No entry for them. Not tonight, probably not this season). I praise Hughsey and co for the picks, not the number 1's – they were almost givens, but the kids, kids like Robbo and Garlett, like AJ and Sauce. Others too, Jammo, Bower and so on. Finally we have dug deep and now have depth (confusing metaphor I know, but after last night you cannot expect much sense out of me, just joy, just navy blue joy that keeps on rising up like a series of glorious sunrises).

Last night we showed we're not coming, we are here! We've loaded the car full of goodies, grabbed a few more members and headed on into town to play with the big boys. Yes siree, we are back. Oh I know there is still ground to make up, still some niceties to learn, some yokel bad habits to ditch, but the thing is the work is being done, the boys are striving, pushing themselves and each other and at the front stands Judd. He's lucky you know, very lucky, he and I will never meet, 'cos if we did I would become an embarrassment! What a player! He's our Goold and Gags, our Dominator and Swan, he's Jezza and Fitzy and Sticks. He's them all and still his own man. He's Chris Judd and he's ours!

What a midfield! I remember the mosquito fleet, the small, fast and furious army of mid fielders the Bluebaggers had that drove opposition teams mad and propelled us to some great flags. Well this time the fleet is as just maddening but bigger, stronger - we've caught up with the times. This fleet is a swarm of wasps!

Okay so we've been poor, we hunted rabbits while everyone chose lions. We turned from riches to rags and lost ourselves in a great depression – but now, now we've found ourselves again and for this I thank Ratts. Its all very well to have good players but every team needs a coach. We now have ours.  Ratts and the boys chose some kids (and we supporters panicked, trust has taken an almighty belting these past few years) to strut their stuff on the big stage, and strut they did. We Bluebagger Clampetts sure know how to dance!

For a time there in the third, the eyes went all misty and I started catching glimpses of Jezza or Sheldon or Buckley or Goold, even Big Nick seemed to flash passed (though wearing the number 8 – how good was the kid's game last night?). The thing about this game is that when it's good it captures all the other good moments so the mind sets up a highlights reel of what's happening and what has happened in the past. Last night did that. It brought the great times back while showing the future.

We play this game as fast and furious as a banjo player from the deep south (as yes, deliverance is upon us!).

In that old sitcom the Clampetts never lost themselves even as they were feted upon by the frivolities of Beverley Hills. Truth is Carlton did lose itself. But with hard work and leadership back in place we have found our core, we are back, sure not at the top, not yet, but we are Carlton again, we know how to play this game and last night, like so many times in the past, from child to adolescent to man, the team did not let us down.

Best for mine was a working man, Haddles in the middle, under everything, tackling anything in black and yellow that dared touch the ball, hand-balling, kicking to targets, the in and under genius to go with the runners. Wiggo too, another blue collar type, like gold nuggets are these types, the players who just lay themselves on the line time after time. Robbo's another gem. Then the oil, the dark blue glide across the grass of Murph and Judd. And that's leaving out The Kruise, Gibbsey and a host of others!

Its only the first game in a long season, the first of many tests, the first of many times each and every Bluebagger player will be placed under pressure, but it was our first test and we passed it with flying colours – that's all you can ask.

Leading the bear home

This gilt cage
swings in a breeze created
by a harsh voice,
feet curled
like old leaves
around the wooden perch.

I sing for supper, dance
for lunch, weep when breakfast
does not come.

I have seen my name
in lights brighter than stars,
discovered a cage needs no bars -
guilt stronger than finest steel.

I befriended the dancing bear,
licked raw patches that once had fur,
fed him rats cut
into the shapes of salmon, dreamed
with him of rocks and water and leaps
into freedom.

It was not until I let go
of faith that the door
finally opened - wings not from angels
but through acceptance; feathers
of words and cadence.

I was once a tree,
once turned only towards the sun
now I move about the land
leading the bear back home.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Books that transported me. Narnia Series

The post I gave about Enid Blyton  and her books, in particular The Magic Faraway Tree, got me thinking about books that transported me as a kid. These books took me to worlds as a kid that I have since carried with me forever.

The first book, or in this case set of books, is the Narnia Series.

These books after the Faraway tree (and more powerfully than) instilled in me the love of fantasy, the wonder of a world at the back of the wardrobe, a world where normal children were transported to fantastical lands populated with mythical creatures.

I read and re-read these books. I still remember the covers (pictured above) the smell of them, the joy of having the next in the series to read.

In a time where Television didn't dominate and we rarely went to the movies books were the real escapist lands and of all the lands I escaped to as a child, Narnia is still one of my most cherished.

Free Book Giveaway

In recognition of Catalina's imminent releae in paperback

available in eBook  Catalina eBook

Okay so I have decided to give away

3 copies of the Tree Singer to three first 3 comments posted requesting the book.

Must be residing in Australia

Just promise me you'll give a rating and review on Amazon (and Goodreads if you are a member)

Friday, 17 August 2012


Strips of light penetrate green summer leaves
that are still thin like new born children.
The edges of the leaves turn golden; trees,
crowned with sunshine, genuflect – you,  
rays igniting long, brown hair, in floral dress,
red flowers the colour of blood, bare
feet embracing ground, greet me in the garden.

In your tanned arms, a child sleeps;
tiny round mouth, scented milk breath - I ache
to touch soft scalp, to bend close, smell
the head innocent as unfurled sunflowers.

Your eyes of cornflower blue ask me to leave.

Closing the gate, the metal latch clicks, as final
as your eyes, I remember once you carried my
child - decide against that particular path.

Unreasonable tears make driving home difficult.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Bob Marley

No woman no cry

The Apps men

We are not the hollow men
We are the filled men
The complete men
The technological men

We have screens so flat
We need not think
Just a swipe,
A slimy spread of our fingerprint
An oily wake
And all is revealed.

We are the Buddhist men
The jihad men
The Christian Dior men.

We cover everything
By placing it online,
The aether has been restored
The sun displaced
The earth is back in its rightful place.

We have mobile screens
Ipad screens
Filter the screams of the poor
The drought and flood victims
By placing them within
The safe four walls of another device.

We are the apps men
The gluttonous men
The never sated, never aging
Wrinkle free, hair dyed men.

We move from App to App,
Hermes with sandals not winged but plugged in.

We have exercise bikes,
Exercise balls,
Tracksuits and running shoes.
We have shiny Lycra and water bottles,
Sweat bands and fish oil tablets,
We swim and sauna and search for perfect abs.

We are not the hollow men
We are the filled men
The complete men
The technological men

This is the way the world crumbles
Not in heat
Not in climatic change
But through dead batteries
Or a credit card that refuses to purchase
The next device needed to stay one step behind
That which will be sold tomorrow.

This is the way the world crumbles
Not with the whisper, a plea, a cry
But the lack of bang for your bucks.

We are the Buddhist men
The jihad men
The Christian Dior men.

This is the way we end
Leaping into the Internet
And lost forever
In pathways not real.
Hands do not touch
Voices speak in typeface
And the colour of her eyes
The smell of her
The way she smiled
When spoken to is forgotten.

This is the way it ends
Not in the sweat and labor
Of the teenage leather backseat
But with a porn industry stealing souls
Selling need
Instead of desire
Making hands work for release
While eyes burn with the lies
Of what is really wanted.

We are not the hollow men
We are the filled men
The complete men
The technological men

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang
But another parlor trick
A new launch of the next big thing
A journey into nothing.

We are the Buddhist men
The jihad men
The Christian Dior men.

While planet earth succumbs,
Whimpers, we elope
With hobbies and apps and meaningless games
Where birds are flung and diamonds won
As if any of it
Actually meant anything.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Walt Whitman

Out of the cradle endlessly rocking

John Lennon


A recurring dream after father’s death

Caught an old red train from the end of the pier
along the ocean, the water always close,
whispering ‘go home, go home’ as its liquid arms
touched the shore a thousand, thousand times,
to the land bridge that before white man’s heavy steps
connected Tasmania to the mainland. From there
I walked to Tasmania along a path the colour of deer skin,
and passed a lot of faces, who travelled the other way,
I did not know, yet somehow did - as if they were
the faces of my genealogy, a history of people who knew me
and remained silent. Their eyes watched without judgment
as I passed, always drawing closer to the round green hills
of Irishtown, the curving road through the farmland
called Fahey’s Lane, named after some long dead ancestor.
I arrived at a farmhouse, an old weatherboard, unpainted,
the tin roof  covering the porch slumped forward
with the weight of too much rain, the glass in the windows
spotted with dust from past rainfall and everywhere
people walked, looked and did not utter a word.

The sky over head was blue, the distant ocean
also blue tinged with the white tops -
surf coming in to crash the island’s ancient rocks
like kids embracing their mother’s legs.

I came to the front door
and found myself standing beside
my father’s coffin – and then
understood this journey was a trip back
to his and my childhood. I stared down
at my bare feet and guessed they were the size
from when I was eleven, maybe twelve, smiled
at my knobbly knees that smiled
from underneath my old grey shorts.

The sadness of recent months dwindled, like
grains of sand falling down a funnel into
someone else’s psychic trouble.

I turned back to the front yard and saw
a young boy run past, who squealed and laughed,
chased by a mother’s angry voice that called

The call woke me.

I discovered myself in my bed at night; left its warmth
to stand before the window in the sunroom, my feet filling
the indentations in the beige carpet, signs
of too many sleepless nights,
and stared up at the stars - thought about Michael,
my father, dead and buried three months ago.
My silence was not filled with his death
but at the thought
that a son never meets his father as a child
and the knowledge
my own son never will.

Catalina reviews

And so the eBook is out there now, and already some people on Goodreads are reading it.

the next step is for some reviews. So if you do read Catalina, please review at Goodreads, if you are a member there. Or at Amazon or Barnes and Noble etc. Kindle also has a forum I think for reviews.

As far as eBooks go reviews are just about the best way to get sales. That and word of mouth.

If you do read Catalina and want to have a chat about the book drop by here and post a comment on this post (or one of the other Catalina posts, I'll find it) and I'll reply.

As soon as I find out the dates for the paperback I'll let people know and I'll sort out a book launch also. Probably at Readings in Carlton. I might do some other signings also - Andrews in Ivanhoe for one.

So please, if you purchase an eBook, give a review. Even star ratings help. In the eBook universe, everything helps!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

My earliest remembered poem

This was in a school book when I was a wee lad. It is the earliest poem I can remember.

Michael Met a Duck

By J Dupuy

Michael met a white duck
Walking on the green.
"How are you ? ” said Michael.
"How fine the weather’s been!
Blue sky and sunshine,
All throughout the day:
Not a single raindrop
Came to spoil our play."

But the sad white duck said,
"I myself want rain.
I’d like to see the brooklets
And the streams fill up again.
Now I can’t go swimming,
It really makes me cry
To see the little duck ponds
Look so very dry."

But behold, next morning,
The clouds are looking black:
Down the rain came pouncing,
Said the duck,  "Quack, quack.
Ponds are full of water,
Ducks are full of joy."
But someone else is not
And that’s the little boy.

Catalina - ebook


The ebook is available now at

Can't wait til I get a hard copy in my hand.

Monday, 13 August 2012

who remembers?

Enid Blyton

So I want to say a thank you to Enid, to my mother who bought me her books and to my sister who often read her to me.

Enid fired my imagination. Took me to Toyland and to realms inhabited by pixies and brownies, elves and talking animals.

Enid filled my mind with the wonder of stories, with the colour of the imagination, with the idea that fantasy can take us on journies further than the most distant star.

The Magic Faraway tree and the enchanted wood filled my sister and I with a belief in magic. How often we hunted for that tree, hoping the next forest, the next bend in the road, the next dream, would take us to the land of topsy-turvy where we would spend hours walking on our hands.

The wishing chair became a game for us, as did the belief in flight, the whispering that one day we would travel to another land by some magical means.

Enid was prolific, with her noddy stories, her Toyland stories, the Secret Seven and Famous Five adventures. Rainy days meant stories from her world. olidays were filled with her worlds. Lonlines s banished bya a mere opening of a book. Enid gave me the gift of story.

I carry it with me still.

This is just a way of thanking her, and letting my mind as I write, drift down those old lanes and country roads where adventures where found to wait, like shimmering mirages.

Poetry reading

To The Reader

Me reading Not A Rhapdsody...

Not A Rhapsody In The Night

Not A Rhapsody in the night (an edit)

(in response to T.S.)

I find myself here, ear to brick post, hair pushed out of eyes
and shirt torn where it got caught on a barbed word
as I crossed through your domain to this site, late on some street
whose name I have not bothered to read, outside a house
whose occupants, as far as I am concerned, might as well be dead.
I certainly am, that has been made dead plain, or crystal clear.
I might even enjoy their decaying smell. You certainly did.
It may echo the smell that resides within this chest of mine
where ribs wriggle like maggots around withering, white flesh.

The port bottle is clenched, a precious key to a distant door
(as if there is hope if I merely turn things the right way
to find sunlight where only night dwells) and my eyes
stare up and stars stare down. We eyeball each other blindly
as I take another swig and nothing is said except inside my head
where words rotate, spin, cartwheel, conjugate misdeeds,
misunderstandings, misplaced agreements and donated misdemeanours.
All hoarded and then given back to me in the hour before the fall
(everything resides on the spinning, gaudy deck of the fairground horses).

The brick post I lean against cares little, less even
than the cheap port (at least it fires the pitbull stomach
with its leaden purge of all the things we’ve said and haven’t).

If the night could only be bent. Curved like an arch,
or the rainbow bridge, so that morning light would spread
and these demons finally be laid to rest for another day.

But night, like your mind, my absent one, is set,
and I am doomed to forever gyrate around
what has occurred (Yorick, held in the greasy palm
of your easy and indifferent judgment).

The moon will not rise. Venus has drifted too far
and Pluto, they tell me, is not even a planet.
But Mars, oh Mars remains, laughing in red;
and your words, like Saturn’s welded rings,
go around and around in my head
as the temperature, this undying night, drops
to below that needed for a heart to bloom.

The bottle finally spits itself dry.

I smash it against the road - enjoy the miniature explosion,
wish I could repeat the gesture
on the inside.
Would I then be cleansed?

Or would it set off a series
of explosions – a beginning, an end?

The sequel.

Since I had finished the original version of Catalina I thought the book was finished. Even when, with edits and conversation with my editor, I deleted the whole section about the Ship of Dreams, I thought Catalina would be a stand alone book.

I am not one for trilogies - I used to love them but that was before everyone started writing them, all the publishers wanting the threepeat (or the sevenpeat). But therer were some unfinished thing about Catalina.

In conversations with Dragonfall Press I began to hint that there was more because I knew there was but I couldn't work out how to start. I thought perhaps of traveling back in time and writing about the witch as a child and the grandmother (who began the mess with Catalina's grandfather) as a child - 3 women - Catalina, Griselda and Isabella. The three books have a nice ring to them (and I love the Triple Goddess aspect) and perhaps one day I will write those other two novels but they are not the continuation of this story.

What I really wanted to do was get Peter back home to Mellothande for a while and then bring him back to Arboroth but the rules I had set up for crossover points didn't seem to allow for this to happen. I was stuck.

And there was the section about the Ship of Dreams that I (and my wife agrees with me) really loved but that didn't really fit in with Catalina - even though the Ship of Dreams was the original title and where the story actually began.

Then Lee finished her wonderful work on my cover and her work set the wheels in motion. Sometimes we just need a trigger. The eye in the cover was the trigger. I've got the picture sitting on my kitchen table and every day I'd give it the once over - then it happened.

I have now started writing the sequel. 13,000 words in and it is taking shape. The Ship is back and Peter does manage to go home and I can get him back. The rules are in tact, it fits together.

Colin Wilson spoke of writing as a problem to be solved. If that is true then a sequel is like a rubik's cube. How can you get everything you have set in place to fit with the new adventures you wish to explore?

For a time I had almost given up.

But triggers are wonderful things, or as Kevin said, 'Sometimes you just need another viewpoint, another eye.'

Lee gave me that.

And so now I am busy on the sequel.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Poem hot off the press.

The Farthest Journey

It is in the sound of the apparatus, like gods,
they surround him, stare into the heart of him
and murmur a decision about him,  that I feel
my disconnect from the prospect of his death.
I offer silent prayers to these unknown machines.
Every labored breath he takes, I promise another act
I will perform as penance, as payment, a stalling
of the ferry’s price, as if my thoughts are a cat of nine tails,
and I flay my future with this fear of being left fatherless.

On his finger resides a clip, as if he is dangling on a line,
or being dangled; a slim chance that he may yet return
to my shore, open his eyes, cease his ramblings
about a past before I was born and smile again at me,
his last boy - this father of mine fights a battle in a white room
and outside the world is grey but between is the deep abyss.

I have not the words of farewell, sacred or profane;
they got lost somewhere in the journey – I
cannot remember when he held me, or the feel of his lips,
only his chin, rough as sandpaper, and his watery eyes
that smiled at me whenever I found my way home.

I have wandered far, thought I had left him behind
and now I stand at his bedside and realize
he is about to take the farthest journey and I stand here
and try to remember every shattered aspect of us.

First ever Ghost of Optus Oval article

John Ragsy Goold and my overcoat

Ragsy Goold; the name stirs memories form my long ago childhood. Ragsy, with his unique kicking style, where he'd hold the ball (always a drop punt - in a time when the drop kick and the torpedo punt still reigned supreme) at the point of the ball, elbows bent and he'd lavishly drop the ball, his
right arm then flinging back and up dramatically. That was the thing about Ragsy (so named because he worked in the clothing, or 'rag' trade), he was always dramatic.

He always ensured his ankle guards and wrist guard were glowing white to match the great white CFC monogram he wore proudly on his chest, and with his long flowing locks, cut a dynamic figure through a young boy's mind. Ragsy was my idol. I loved his dashes from half back, his long accurate drop punts, most of all I loved his flair for the game. Ragsy played the game as an entertainer as well as a sportsman - he leapt high to punch or mark, and always seemed to have a bit of the thoroughbred about him - which is probably why after he retired, he took up fox chasing, polo, and riding his beloved thoroughbreds across the paddocks and over the fences of his property, I think he may have even represented Australia at the sport – really, that’s sort of how he played as a footballer. All sinewy muscle, long legs and famous leaps for the saving punch.

Ragsy was part of the great backline that helped revive Carlton's fortunes. Legendary players Wes Lofts, Ian Collins, Kevin 'Racehorse' Hall, Vinnie Waite among them. All great teams have a great defence and the defence that Ragsy was an integral part of was no different. Where others provided the biffo, the muscle or the defensive pressure, Ragsy provided the dash, the flair, the sense of adventure that all great backlines must have. Don't get me wrong, he was tough, all footballers are, but he was also a ballet dancer, a player of such flair that for hours I was John Ragsy Goold in my backyard, kicking the ball his way, dashing forward to gather the ball, elbows flying, running straight, kicking long...

I have had many favourite players while following the Blues, but there will always be a special spot for Ragsy Goold - running the lines, all long hair and flashing, white guards.

As a young man I moved to Carlton and began acting in a place called one-c-one. One night after a play, I was walking home. It was winter, and I was wearing my favouritte overcoat, a genuine ankle length tweed affair I had picked up in an Op Shop in Oakleigh for three dollars. As I strutted across Lygon Street, a deep male voice behind me called, 'hey laddie, how much for the overcoat?'

I turned, and there was my childhood idol, Ragsy Goold, two beautiful women in tow, smiling and waiting for my answer. I loved that coat too much to part with it, even to Ragsy, so I shook my head - and he smiled, then walked off.

I stood for a moment in the middle of the street shaking my head in disbelief. Ragsy bloody Goold had just offered to buy my overcoat! I knew at that point, as a young man of about twenty three, that life was going to be full of surprises and very entertaining - a bit like John ‘Ragsy’ Goold. He was my childhhood hero but I was now a young man, a man setting out to find his own path, a would be writer, a sometime actor - that coat was mine, my 'artist as a young man in Carlton' coat, and separate from those childhood memories of my football heroes, and perhaps that's how things should be.

Charles Bukowski

The Genius of the Crowd

The Minotaur dreams

In his dreams the Minotaur saw his many-mirrored reflection
in the beads of sweat that gathered on the foreheads
of the girls who fed him and found himself crying out
to his Father without understanding if it was to the King
or the God Bull that he sent his pleas towards.

Each morning the guards reported to the King
his nightly pleas and the torment they witnessed
as they girls drew close and fed him.
They noted his horns almost bent towards the girls
as if their tips hungered for the touch of flesh.

Each girl found that moment when she could not
touch Androgeus again, the fear, like lava, dissolving
all of her and then she would be dragged, dead,
yet still breathing, to the King’s bed, ruined for a time,
she mute and vacant, then sent home in a casket.

The monster was blamed for each maiden’s death
and so the Minotaur’s legend grew, all while the monster
was unaware of his crimes, unaware of the deaths or
of the hatred his name now instilled in lands; his name
filled the ears of children as warning that evil existed.

Review of Paul Adkin's novel - Purgatory

Buy here

Shadows on the wall

Do you,
lying there
in the ruined jungle of the bed,
in the tiger stripes of shadow,
in the languid aftermath,
naked as my heart,
believe in any of this?

Sometimes you slip away,
a scent barely remembered
before it has passed -
Are you real?

In the flesh,
in the sounds of us,
the heartbeats between us,
the sweat and tangled sheets
and restless crashing ocean of us,
you seem real.

Then it is sunlight.
The creases remain
and you have fled.

This bedroom,
my cave:
I wait, hermit crab,
red and exposed for you, my shell
to envelop me again.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

an old Ghost article


The thing about sport that makes it important and not just entertainment is that it can deliver important lessons for life. Lessons not just for the players involved but also for their supporters: The diehard fans that live and breathe their achievements. Over the years I have learnt many things through my support of Carlton, things that have mattered to me in all walks of life.

Diesel taught me never to accept that I did not have 'what it takes', not if in my heart I believed I was capable. Kenny Hunter taught me about courage, about how someone smaller and lighter can time and again expose the bigger bodies by having the courage to not care about the difference. Teddy Hopkins taught me to grasp my opportunities, to make the most of whatever time I might get.

So many players teach us so much about ourselves but the lesson I remember most is not about a player but a group, a team: A team, a coach and a determination not to give in. To rise above the despair that they must have felt at halftime when for all the world they were gone and come out to produce the most famous Last Day In September victory.

Already you know what game I mean. So large does it loom in the landscape of the AFL and in our own proud navy blue history. The game to end all games, the day that forever stamped Carlton as the victor over Collingwood, stamped us so proudly that Collingwood will forever hate us Bluebaggers the way a dog hates the feet that walk past the fence reminding it of lost freedom. They can play until the gates of Heaven are closed and the dead rise again in their boots for a final kick at goal and never redeem that loss. That is the magnitude of that day.

And for me, a twelve year old nearing that moment in his life when he would turn thirteen and leave behind the long summer boyhood of bike rides and water fights. Leave forever the winter walks home as rain fell to chill the boy but the fire at home waited with mum and a thick, warm towel. The approaching time when the lessons of the primary school playground would need to be forgotten and the new rules of high school learned. For me that victory is a mountain in the landscape of my life.

I remember being up a cherry tree picking cherries the day John Lennon was shot. I remember sitting in a classroom watching a fuzzy T.V. picture the day man walked on the moon. I remember that day in September all those years ago when Carlton dragged itself out, battered and bruised, and put on such a display it took our breath away.

The day began in sadness. I had seen the ’68 flag in the standing room of the M.C.G and I had sat and endured that which was ’69, but my father told me that morning I would not be able to come along to the 70 final. When Carlton and Collingwood play in a final tickets are as rare as hen’s teeth. I watched my father and brothers leave for the game and felt an emptiness inside, an emptiness that drove me outside where I began to kick the ball.

Later that day I found myself listening to the game at my friend’s house, he too barracked for the Blues and so we shared our camaraderie as we sat and listened to that first half debacle. At half time I returned home and stayed in the backyard kicking that ball over and over as I tried to redeem the efforts of my Blue heroes with a synchronicity between my game in the backyard and the real game at the MCG. Over and over I played out heroic efforts as Crosswell marked and Big Nick crashed packs to clear a path for Gags and Wallsey goaled.

Then the backdoor flew open and mum yelled out that we were back in the game. It was three quarter time and Carlton was within 10 points. This information froze me. Made me stare at the football I held as if it was a magic wand. Had my efforts redoubled theirs? I was in a quandary. If I left the yard and went inside to listen would the players stumble again? Should I continue with my efforts in my backyard to ensure their efforts at the home of football continued on? Was their a connection?

Mum asked if I wished to come inside and listen but I shook my head and stayed outside. I owed it to the Bluebaggers. In truth I was terrified of breaking that thread, a thread between my game in a small, suburban backyard and the majestic game being played out at the MCG. I stayed outside and kicked that ball around as if playing for my life. We won that game in my yard and soon the backdoor flew open again and mum ran out laughing to tell me we had won the Grand Final.

Then I raced around to my friend’s house and we crossed the road and bought a paper with Weg’s poster inside and the two of us stood on the street corner showing that poster to every car that passed us by as dusk settled down upon that marvellous day in Melbourne, the day Carlton came back from the dead to win their tenth flag.

That day Carlton taught me never to give in, never to think you haven’t a chance. You have, always, if you dig deep enough and believe in yourself and want it enough, you can turn the tide and create a victory which only a short moment before seemed a certain defeat.

Whenever I think of that day I feel that thread the little boy felt as he played a game in his backyard in sympathy with a final at the MCG. Sometimes I even let myself believe it was my efforts that day that helped my heroes find the path to victory. After all, isn’t that what all supporters believe, deep down in the secret oval of their souls? Don’t we all think our beliefs or rituals or actions somehow affect theirs? We all carry our own red hankie to matches the way Steve Waugh carried his to every test. We all think we are vital to the results of our team. It is why we barrack with such passion, why we go week after week; we believe are a part of the team’s success, a crucial part. We are the Carlton Football Club.

a song about the yarra

My Brown Yarra

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Ghost of Optus Oval article


It starts Thursday night when the teams are released on the Carlton website. I study the team and begin to see possible match-ups and before long another potential victory flaps around in my brain like one of the Carlton flags at Optus. I angrily chase away any thought of a loss, like a lion chasing a vulture from the carcass. That night a simmering dream cradles me, a dream of footballs, goals, screaming voices, whistles and shared victories over hated enemies. I wake refreshed in the new dawn, vibrant, as if the energy of my youth had returned. I wish to run out again as I did all those years ago early of a Saturday morning to have a game, the day so cold exhaling drew personal frosts around everyone’s faces, the dew was frozen on the grass and the leather football threatened to break fingers and toes.

Then Friday morning’s paper - the second most important paper of any good week (the morning victory paper by far the best) – arrives on the doorstep and the butterflies begin to waken, fluttering their navy blue wings to send ripples of expectation through the bloodstream. Suddenly I feel like clicking my heels together and the journey to work is almost joyful. Friday morning in the car I mentally tick off who I shall pick in the football competition. Carlton is never considered. They are always chosen victors – I’m loyal to my CFC monogrammed bones.

By 12 noon the skin starts to tingle and my heart becomes an actor in a Shirley temple movie and dances little soft-shoe shuffles up and down the stairs in my chest. Memories slip past regularly: Memories of Wow Jones kicking a ball to the original ‘woof!’ on a Saturday arvo’: The arms of Kenny Hunter reaching up to pluck the ball before it reaches the pack: Johnno slamming another goal home and Mike Fitzpatrick’s finger directing another player to fill a gap. So many memories that I need to talk with other supporters even those who follow other teams, though not Collingwood, they never have anything constructive to add so much does 1970 still hurt, you can see it the grimaced faces, in their haunted look at the corner of their eyes. They thought 1990 would ease the pain bit it didn’t, nothing ever will. When lunchtime arrives at work we all sit and discuss our different teams’ chances, each of us pretending a fairness and open-mindedness that none of us posses come match days.

By 7.30 Friday evening my mind is full of the possibilities (who might star and who might struggle, who I would have chosen and who I might have dropped) that will be revealed the next day. By 11:30 that night I have a clear picture of my father’s smiling face and twinkling eyes when Carlton led by four goals at three-quarter time and the little jig he would do on the way to a pub after the game. I remember the walk my brother and I would take from Royal Park station around the zoo to the ground when we were older, me kicking a newspaper football while he extolled the virtues of this or that footballer. He loved talking about the players, players like Racehorse Hall in number 3 or gritty Barry Gill in 21 or Wes Lofts the number 20 fullback who was rumored to know my dad. I can even remember him explaining to me the virtues of Brian Kekovich in the bleak years before Barass arrived.

By Saturday I just have to go. Breakfast hurts and lunch cannot be faced. I can’t sit still and I am unable to concentrate; my mind swirls with famous marks of Jezza’s or Harry Madden’s giraffe-like run. My wife already knows this is not the time to try and encourage me to garden: I’d do more damage on a day Carlton’s playing than any help with plants and weeds and cuttings I might provide the rest of the year. My mind just keeps wandering off – David Mackay flies through the air taking another grab and Gag’s ducking head and poked out tongue bob out from another pack or Maclure’s long arms wrapped around the pill crashes into my concentration – so that I become a menace with secateurs.

In the background the radio is on and the footy experts are whispering to me ‘go, go you fool, you know you’ll regret it if you don’t,’ and then they pick against Carlton and my blood boils and I can no longer deny the urge, at this point my son (a mind reader like all children) tugs at my sleeve asking again, ‘so, we going dad?  Are we meeting up with my uncles? Will Sean be there?’

I go because the memory of my dad and pop beckons and my brothers have told me where we’ll meet.

I go because going to the football and seeing the Bluebaggers lose is infinitely better than not going to see them and they win. Besides if I see them lose then I can handle the pain of the loss but if they lose and I didn’t go a small nagging voice inside my mind berates me saying ‘if only you had gone, if only you had gone,’ it’s that thread that connects me with the Bluebaggers, a hangover from that marvelous day in 1970.

I go because football is this childhood pump that sits behind my heart thumping a bass beat. It’s a baby’s tantrum, all legs and arms pummeling as it demands it’s due. It holds me in thrall all season, forcing me to travel to the grounds and walk in with the swell of people and voices and the special cry of ‘footy re-cord!’ that is as Australian as the magpie chortle or a distant coo-ee!’ Is there a bigger thrill than walking in with the crowd, expectation rising up from the throng as supporters from both sides try to still their beating hearts? Woven throughout are the voices, the young, vibrant voices calling ‘footy re-cord! Get your footy re-cord!’

I go to the game because as the bounce of the ball draws near my heart is stretched between the goal posts like a crucified villain, strung up and stretched, ready for the drawing and quartering. Each goal they kick is a barb that digs in deep, each of our goals succours a moment of relief. Only a Carlton victory can bring me redemption.

I go because I’m in the grips of a thirst, and beer at the football shared between brothers and friends is the sweetest nectar ever poured into a cup (even a plastic one).

I go just to roll that record up like a sacred scroll and have my Carlton pen ready to hand to my son because he now demands to keep the goals and points score just like I did when I was 10 and my brother handed the record to me.

I go to see that jumper, that navy blue jumper with the shining white monogram, that jumper that is like family, so much does it reverberate within me. Whenever I see that jumper I feel like a prodigal son coming home again after a terrible absence. I remember the woolen jumper mum knitted for me when I was a kid, I remember my son’s jumper stolen last year with number 14 on the back claiming his allegiance to Fish. Past jumpers and present, even jumpers that I played in but have nothing to do with the Blues, mingle in a never-ending stream of hope, loss and past glories.

I go to see the Bluebaggers win and because sharing a loss is easier than bearing it alone.

I go because football is not a television sport – it’s a gladiatorial contest that needs us supporters baying from the stands for it to have any meaning. Imagine a Dominator bump without the crowd’s roar or a Jezza grab without the astonished faces. Imagine missing the next magic moment and not being able to say, ‘I was there the day Fev took ‘em apart.’ Football needs our voices, our eyes, our hearts, or it will become a gasping fish flapping on the concrete pier of television.

I go because I barrack for Carlton and there is no grander place to be than in the Heatley Stand as we kick home towards the social club and the goals start raining down like the breaking of a seven year drought and the stands are rocking louder than any concert at the MCG.

I go with my son so that he will grow up as glad and mad a Bluebagger as his dad – just as my dad did with me. I go to continue to dynasty, a line of Carlton supporters that spills out both behind and in front like a deep, deep, navy blue sea.