Worlds colliding

Cygnet

‘Worlds colliding!’ It’s an expression which often floats through my mind on a smile. Unremarkably, it hails from a Seinfeld episode in which a pent up George finds his new fiancé, Susan, deepening her relationship with his old buddy Elaine, lunching together and shopping together, all of it without him. In a state of infantile distress, George confesses his unease to Jerry. Eyes wide, breath held, arms flailing, he cries, ‘Worlds colliding.’

I’ve been struggling over a piece of writing – my Masters thesis – a strange long essay on accumulation, volume and identity, part art criticism, part philosophy, part long piece of writing. In an effort to preserve focus, I’ve been drawing up calendars and maps of how to keep the world at bay: paid work, childcare, household duties, social responsibilities and the tangents of other writing. When I finally sit down to write, I wrestle in clear space, with unattainable thoughts.

School holidays are no friend to the creatively preoccupied mother. This past week I went ‘home’ down the NSW south coast; my ma and pa had been pining for the Cygnet. Somehow I imagined hours of writing time, my desk tuned to the rainforest, a bell for meals and bed. But it didn’t work out that way. Because my eight year old Cygnet wants to play board games before breakfast. He wants to make LEGO trapeze and advanced origami before lunch. And when the sun is shining (as it was) he wants to move, he wants to ride and kick and run in the fields until the moon rises. And my parents can no longer do those things all day.

So, after lunches of reluctantly pasteurised cheeses and Barossa reds, the Cygnet and I spent the afternoons on the front hill, high above the rolling hills of the Shoalhaven and the endless sea beyond.

This year, I am most definitely up for the challenge; I need the practice. This year, I am assistant coach to the Newtown Swans Under 9 Golds. And while my hand-balling and marking have always been fine, while I can work any drill the coach throws at me, while I can get the kids up and giggling as well as anyone, my Achilles heel has always been … my kicking. And it has weighed heavily; ‘You know it’s called football, Mum!’ I spend Wednesday night training sessions hoping that it will only ever be the kids who need to be kicking. And when kicking is actually required, I’ve been known to throw the Sherrin into the breeze that whips across Botany Bay, using it as a factor, ‘keeping the trajectory steady’ for the kids. Never mind that they can kick 50 metres on a tightrope. This year, aware of my new title, the Cygnet and his dad have taken it on themselves to train me up and make me proud – there’s no place for a ‘girlie kick’ with a coach’s hat on. We’ve spent hot autumn Saturdays at the park, our bikes leaned against the palm trees, a triangle of kicks wearing down the afternoons as we discuss laces and points, toes and insteps, backspin and other spin, dropping versus throwing, elbows in, elbows out and the opposite hand taken off.

And so training continued down the coast – the Cygnet and I, an imperfect ground, an opposition of gums and lilly pillies and a single jacaranda in the goal square.

‘Good kick,’ I congratulated myself on something which landed on his chest.

‘Great mark,’ said the Cygnet.

‘Good mark.’ I was responsible for my own morale.

‘Pretty perfect kick,’ said the Cygnet of his own.

And so it went. And in the flow and rhythm of our kick and catch, something took over. My kicks went straighter and straighter, with backward spin. Judgement dissolved. We dug out the rogue balls from snake territory round the water tank. The Cygnet created the ‘Uphill Demon’, a spiralling bomb from the bottom of the slope. Increasing accuracy meant the jacaranda couldn’t get a touch. In the application and repetition, in the acceptance of the grubbers that weren’t pretty and the ones that came off the shin, and the ones which stayed closer to home rather than travel, something emerged beyond expectation or will, something free and fine. I wished for a pen in my hand as we blew the siren on the lost shape of the gums to night.

The Swans played the Saints in New Zealand that evening. History, international points, ANZAC spirit. Yeah, yeah. According to Shane Mummy, it was simply a trip east rather than west. And the match – it ground from the start. On a slippery deck in a foreign land, it just ground and ground. The odd display of very slick hands, the odd display of traditional full forwardness, the odd display of flow and link. But mostly, it ground and ground. No need for heroics, no need for fighting spirit or blind courage. It was almost as if the style was more than conditions or strategy, some driving force which had a longer throw for Sydney’s season, some kind of reiteration of ‘bit by bit’ and ‘staying the distance’ all in the one movement. Some might have called it dour. But me, I found the even tension of the four quarters transfixing. It reminded me of the patch of grass on the front hill. It reminded me of the mown lines of an empty page. Worlds colliding.

Setting out on a piece of writing is a bit like going onto foreign soil, into imperfect conditions and not knowing what you’ll make there. It’s a process of beginning at the beginning and trusting the course, with enough intention to keep the destination in sight. It’s as hands off as it is hands on. As much as I try to quarantine solo space in this world, I rarely get the chance to do anything cocooned from colliding worlds. Perhaps it’s time to let them call the shots.

 

About Mathilde de Hauteclocque

Swans member since 2000, Mathilde likes to wile away her winters in the O’Reilly stand with ‘the boys’, flicking through the Record and waiting to see the half backs drive an explosive forward movement. She lives in Sydney and raises a twelve year old Cygnet.

Comments

  1. Exquisite, Mathilde. The photo of the cygnet (footy in hand) framed by tall gums on rolling green hills is so like one you published last year. Except the child is becoming a strapping boy. I hope you make this an annual series.
    I have also recently discovered that footy is a mere baggatelle – an afterthought in our busy lives. A modest seasoning that can add a little flavour to the dish, but is not central to the experience.
    This revelation came about half way through the last quarter of the Eagles capitulation last night. I think I will take my knitting and a good book to the game at Subi next weekend, and only occasionally glance at the play and the scoreboard.
    Thanks for reminding me of the important things in life.

  2. Lord Bogan says:

    Mathilde,

    George is a great role model for our post-modern dilemmas. Just look at what he does and do the opposite. Success assured.

    PB, can relate to your philosophy, but it is much easier to decentralize the experience when our teams are getting done. Funny that.

  3. Stephanie Holt says:

    Beautiful piece! Thanks Mathilde. And best wishes for those many busy roles you’re juggling.

  4. Mathilde – wonderful piece. Worlds do collide. I reckon things might be a little too safe and cosy if they didn’t. Organise chaos?

    I’m sure the “Worlds colliding, Jerry” shriek from George was the same episode where he mourned over the fact the “Relationship George” and “Independent George” might both be discovered. Priceless comedy.

  5. mickey randall says:

    Lovely piece. I enjoyed the pastoral qualities Mathilde. You married chaos and tranquility to nice effect. Looking forward to your next offering!

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