A Baker’s 50

“How are we going to get to Kangaroo Ground?”

That was the question that was regularly asked in the Bonza Bunch of Bastards email banter in the lead up to Bakes’ 50th birthday party on Saturday night. That and,

“How are we going to get home again?”

In the end it was each man for himself. Needless to say designated drivers were in huge demand. However one clever lark brought his campervan and parked it a hundred metres away from the party noise near one of Bakes’ many farm sheds. Whoever it was had the evening pencilled in as a blinder. Smart move though.

Kangaroo Ground is a bit like Eltham about thirty years ago, except that in Kangaroo Ground people have showers and wash their hair and the houses seem, on the whole, to comply with the basic rules of construction engineering. It’s a place where the breeze wafts gently through the brown summer grasses, where the sun kisses the leaves of the local eucalypts until they shine, where the Yarra meanders along in peaceful harmony with the surrounding bushland, and where bush fires continually threaten in the hot months. It’s a beautiful part of Melbourne’s outer fringes; rolling hills, sparsely populated communities, views across treed canopies as far as a shotgun pellet can travel, and long pot-holed driveways that are actually long enough to reach the ranch. It’s magnificent.

I managed to find a bloke (through a great tip off from a mate) who, for a reasonable price, would drive Butch and I and our wives up to Kangaroo Ground whilst we enjoyed a few frothy convivials on the way (it was a two stubby trip).Then he agreed to come back at 1am, pour us into his car and drive us home again.  What a bloke. We gave him a tip because his immaculate black limo type vehicle looked like something out of ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ by the time it reached thepinnacle of Bakes’ driveway.

Bakes’ ponder sits perched atop a hill with views across vast amounts of countryside on three sides. It’s a lovely place, like an enlarged doll’s house with windows that seem to frame the landscape, and a homeliness that houses on acreage seem to possess. He’s got a tennis court (which you can also practice your golf putting skills on), a BBQ area, and a recently paved outdoor patio expanse; the perfect entertainment environment. The best part is that there is no neighbour within at least a 10 punt kick radius.

The party was already on the boil when we arrived at about 7.30pm. Bakers (I’m not referring to the manufacturers of a flour based staple product) were everywhere; serving drinks, passing around freshly made sushi and top line oysters. The beer began to flow. Friars boys emerged out of the approaching darkness with the regularity of an Indian curry. They all had their travel plans organised with military precision – or not. Smithy, Santa, Robbo, Spinksy, Hap, Bugs, Sal, Feuta G and Feuta M, Ces, DT, Woody, Killer and plenty more. It was like a schoolboy football reunion. Did I mention that the beer began to flow?

Before long a team of chefs was cooking up a feast in large boiling woks; fried rice, a stir fry beef number, and something else I forget. But it had rice in it. I ate about four tonnes of the stuff. Superb.

All this and the footy hadn’t even started yet.

Blues supporters were plentiful; Hap, Feuta G, Santa and Sal. They’re the ones I can recall. They swarmed when the Blues got in front early.

“19 points up!” Santa told me at one stage.

“19 points is nothing for the Cats these days” I replied. When surrounded by Carlton arrogance, give it back in spades was my view. But I sensed the Blues might be “on”. I broke out into a cold sweat.

The beer was flowing. Smithy had to leave early so he was under pressure to have a night’s worth of coldies in two and a half hours. As usual he acquitted himself manfully.

The beer was flowing. The Cats snuck ahead. Apparently they’d kicked four or five in fast time (after the Blues had done the same). The game was still in the balance. I lost track of time. The beer was flowing.

A whisper in my ear – “Cats by 19 points.”

You beauty I thought.

It seemed like twenty seconds later that I got another whisper. “Cats by 33.”

Game over? Maybe.

The beer was really flowing.

I relaxed. In fact I relaxed so much that I had an urge to break the seal; something I resist as much as possible at every function. Even at a party surrounded by trees. I wondered off into the peaceful bushland and left my scent near an old gumtree. It was beautiful; the gumtree that is. As I stood there I looked all the way up its gnarly old trunk to its feathery top.

“How many games of footy have passed you by?” I asked it. No answer.

I returned to the party via the bar. The beer was flowing hard now. I went over to a little fire where Woody and Hap were discussing footy. Woody was lamenting the plight of his beloved Dees. Hap had his phone perched on his chest. The AFL Live ap was open.

“Cats by 25” he said.

“The Dees have got no hope of competing” said Woody, “They just haven’t got the players.”

“Cats by 16” said Hap, quietly urging his Blue boys home.

“Most of ‘em can’t even kick the bloody thing forchrissakes” said Woody, still referring to the Dees.

“Cats by 10.” said Hap. He was smiling. It was a wicked smile.

“Geez you wouldn’t want to drop this one Dips” Said Woody.

“Cats by 11” said Hap.

It was my shout. I left Hap and Woody lurking around the fire whilst I charged for the bar in the hope that it might change the fortunes of the Cats at Etihad. I got lost in conversations and shouts and party noise. I saw Hap leaning near a pot plant 10 minutes later as the speeches started.

“All over?” I asked.

“Three goals” he said “****!”

The Cats were home. I let the beer flow some more.

The speeches were fabulous. DT did a wonderful job; colourful, funny, and broad in its content. Bakes and Gill (Bakes’ wife) also spoke and gave us a few more laughs. It was just great. The way a 50th celebration should be.

The beer was still flowing. It was flowing for Butch too. His mighty Lions had held off Gold Coast. And J Brown had kicked five! (apparently). He told me this repeatedly all the way home.

Our car arrived on cue and we negotiated our way out of the Kangaroo Ground maze. Home. Bed. Dreams of victory over the Blues fought their way through the fog. Life is good. Sleep.

Post script – Bakes emailed the Bonza Bunch of Bastards on Monday morning to say that a Carlton beanie was found on his roof; apparently discarded in a fit of rage on Saturday night by a disgruntled Blues supporter. Bakes was concerned that it may have contaminated his drinking water given that it had rained on Sunday afternoon (they live off tanks in KG). He had the tank fumigated just in case. (Bakes is Collingwood right down to the little curly bits in his DNA).

About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Nothing like a good night where the beer is flowing. Very, very important to delay the breaking of the seal for as long as possible. Great read of what sounded like a great night.

  2. Dips / Luke
    Nothing fills a man with dread quite so much as breaking the seal
    when the beer is really flowing.

  3. Dips,

    Lovely tale.
    Pity the Blues didn’t wipe the smile off the snug Cats.
    It’s all going so smoothly for you cats again – is that an Odd years things?
    One final.
    Woody and I had a traveller in the back seat on the way home and decided to back A.Scott in the Masters. Helps us cover the cost of the Hangover tablets.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Enjoyable read , Dips on what sounds like a great night I reckon you could have given the name and number of your driver and drummed up some business from the Knackery

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