A Christmas Miracle? A Yuletide Greeting from John Harms

Mick Harms 180 25.12.2014 (2)


Now that everyone has slowed down, including Family Harms, there’s time for a leisurely write (in front of the cricket), and a leisurely read (in front of the cricket) to go with a quiet ale (in front of the cricket) while we wait for the World Championship of Darts to start up again.

Firstly, I hope you and yours had an enjoyable Christmas time.

I wanted to say Happy Christmas and thanks to writers, editors, readers, members, lunchers, sponsors and advertisers: everyone who has made a contribution to the Almanac during 2014. It’s been a wonderful year.

Sean Curtain paid a lovely tribute to the Almanac recently. Let me assure you that is a great shot in the arm to those of us who try to keep things going to hear of the affection for the Almanac. Everyone plays their part, but I especially want to thank the writers – there are so many of you – for the terrific stories you send in. There is tremendous variety and, importantly, so much of the writing really is from the heart.

I hope we can continue to provide the platform for writers and other creative types, whatever your genre.

There’s always a story somewhere.

Our Christmas story: it was a Harms Home Christmas so we all gathered in the Western District (to be among Geelong supporters), where the Hamilton Harmses hosted magnificently. BBQ and salads. There was  beer and bubbly and some cracking reds.

That is one of the many things that Poppa helped us love and appreciate: the joy of good wine splashed about in convivial company. It’s a pity he wasn’t among us, but Nanna was. The pick of the wines was a 1996 Rockford Basket Press – one of Australia’s great wines (whatever year) – but that is a ripper that had aged better than most of us at the table.

At the Hamilton Lutheran Church the two rows of Harmses were all thinking of Poppa on Christmas morning. A pipe organ will do that. Nanna was certainly doing it with joy and sadness all at once with the hanky dabbing at her eyes. It was very reassuring to see the teenage cousins so moved by the moment, thinking of all the Christmas services Poppa took (and how he took them) during his life, and then how much Christmas continued to mean to him to the very end.

Family and heritage are very powerful – wonderful as long as the rituals and traditions are not used to prop up mythologies that are ultimately harmful to all. So you must always be alert. Never comfortable or complacent. Always contemplative. Always self-critical.

Christmas lunch was leisurely, delightfully paced. It started mid-afternoon and we didn’t actually have dessert until lunch in the cricket on Boxing Day.

During the afternoon the kids were occupied with their Christmas gifts or out playing cricket or on the trampoline. The bowling machine came out: always good for slips-catching although when I was trying to run them off the face to the five slips I didn’t appreciate the smart-arse cousin who cranked it to full throttle and jagged it a few degrees straight at me, so that I was, as one cousin observed a rabbit in the headlights, beaten by the quicker one, as it came at me from close range.

There’s always a laugh in an uncle two decades past his prime with two thirds of a bottle of Barossa shiraz in him.

Late in the afternoon brother Mick wandered out to the garage fridge for a cleanser – to find me already at the fridge. I was also throwing a few quiet darts. The challenge was immediately on: Mickey Mouse as it’s called down south; Carriages and Coaches is the Queensland name.

In the first rubber (possibly the first of 23) I snuck ahead and was scoring on 17s for a while, and then jagged a Shanghai which is apparently worth 150 in the Western District (generous). Mick nailed a triple, which meant he was scoring on triples and, needing points, attacked the triple 20. What happened next was memorable. Triple 20. Triple 20. Triple 20.

“One hundred and eighty.”

There was madman’s laughter from me. And Mick as he went into orbit.

Having burst through the 1910 garage doors he went the full Robin van Persie aeroplane, banking left at the Hardenbergia before arcing his way, clockwise, across the lovely couch lawn. Max the fox terrier looked bemused, Bella the lab opened one eye and went back to sleep, while the womenfolk appeared on the back deck concerned someone had impaled themselves on the corkscrew. (There was only one corkscrew.)

No doubt it will be remembered for a long time (God willing, as Poppa used to say).

And so, we are home in Northcote now, waiting for the Harms beach holiday in early January in Lorne, an all-sport extravaganza, The Brown Slipper being the highlight.

When waving us goodbye late on Boxing Day Mick asked for the passenger window to be put down. “Hey,” he said, excitedly, “I’ll bring the dart board to Lorne.”

See you in Lorne.

Again, Happy Christmas and all the best in 2015.




About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au. He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. Love this John. Mrs Martin gave me a dartboard for Christmas! Just not sure whether it should take pride of place back in the garage at Perth, or in the shed at Second Valley in SA. I’m don’t want to sound greedy but I’m coming around to the idea that I might need a second unit.

  2. Nick Laucke says

    G’day John, fun read today. The mention of your father and his Xmas services bought back fond memories of his time and my childhood in Eudunda SA. Living just up the hill from Pastor Harms was not as scary for a kid as previous pastors had been. He was a wonderful person.
    As far as a 180 in darts, I have a feeling you won’t be able to forget that one in a hurry.

  3. Keiran Croker says

    Thanks to you and the crew for another great year as part of the Footy Almanac. It’s a great community to be part of as a writer or just to consume many great pieces. Who could not be taken in by Yoshi of Sapporro or Old Dog or Rulebook to name just a few.
    I just got around to taking in all the comments on the nominations for wool industry team of the century. Very funny, very informative.
    Looking forward to 2015!
    Regards, Keiran.

  4. John Butler says

    Onya JTH

    All the best to the Handicapper and kin.

    Have a good break.

  5. Andrew Weiss says

    Lovely insight into the Harms family Christmas. Did your brother David get involved in the cricket game or had he torn his ever reliable hamstrings getting up out of his chair to go to the fridge? Great to see that your piece on the first showdown at the Adelaide oval this year got a gig in the The Advertiser / Adelaide now website yesterday. Hopefully one of many.

  6. Got two Brown slippers in the cupboard if you run short, John

  7. Nice story Johnny. I didn’t recognise Mick at first, he was a fresh faced youth last time I saw him. He does look like your dad though. Likewise we were all sad that grandad wasn’t here with us but we know he was looking over us. Enjoying the test and the darts too

  8. Tom, great present. The Handicapper surprised everyone – especially me – by giving me one ofr my birthday some years ago.

    Nick, great to hear from you and thanks for the comments about my father. He really loved his time in Eudunda and country – I believe Peep Hill is about to feature in the Water Diviner movie. We also loved coming to Eudunda during uni breaks – when we could – as that manse and the garden they’d built was a real sanctuary.

    Keiran, thanks for those kind words about the Almanac.Looking forward to another fun year of writing, commenting, lunches and other publications. It’s the keen-ness of the people which make it.

    JB, Thanks. You’ll like that our youngest aged 3 is calling your home town Ballerinarat.

    AW, David has the worst hamstrings this side of Cyril Rioli. Can’t manage C Grade cricket at the moment. he and Rocket Ellis could incapacitate themselves leaning on the bar.

    Diogenes, I also have a china claret jug.

    TG, Mick is looking older in that photo – probably because I took it. I am not the worst photographer in the world, but I’m in the worst five.

    Looking forward to the weather improving in Melbourne this morning and a brave chase from the Indians.

  9. Malcolm Ashwood says

    JTH lovely insight in to the Harmes family Xmas , thank you for the opportunity to be part of the almanac community, hope I don’t annoy to much ( laughter from TM , Daddsy etc ) . The almanac and the worlds greatest football club have become intringsly linked .

  10. Rulebook – is it a merger or have you made JTH an offer he can’t refuse?

  11. Malcolm Ashwood says

    PB JTH has always said it is his ambition to lunch for aust hopefully we are a big part of that . In all seriousness re Brenton Nose Eckert when , Daddsy and myself thought of how we would spread the word re Noses health we both immediately thought of the almanac . I no Nose has appreciated the chance to share his footy memories .
    Darren the jerk , Graetz where else do you go to inform but the knackery

  12. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Sorry re Darren’s 500th game for , Ad Uni FC

  13. Peter Schumacher says

    Hi Harmsy,

    I too really enjoyed reading your thoughts, I too will always treasure my Lutheran background, and think of the Christmas services that my dad, also a Lutheran country pastor used to run

    I really liked the what you said next though which I have taken the liberty to quote to add emphasis. “Family and heritage are very powerful – wonderful as long as the rituals and traditions are not used to prop up mythologies that are ultimately harmful to all. So you must always be alert. Never comfortable or complacent. Always contemplative. Always self-critical”. I agree so much with those sentiments.

    Life is interesting really, this year for the first year ever the Minister for Home Affairs and I were scheduled to have a Christmas entirely by ourselves as our children and their off spring live overseas and we have no relatives in Victoria, so that our celebration even with the help of a last minute kindly invitation was very muted compared to previously, and certainly to the fun that you chronicled so well that you and yours experienced.

    We have had a great time viewing the cricket, I reckon that the Boxing Day Test along with the State of Origin, the Anzac Day Clash between Essendon and Collingwood and the Grand Final are as good as it gets although if Australia does really well at the round ball games coming up that would be something.

    Meanwhile the boys are preparing for he 2015 AFL season, who knows what that will throw up this year, not another season dominated by Hawthorn I hope but let’s see how the Power go.

    The Almanac is an extremely important part of my life even though my contributions have dropped off. Not sure if it is writers block, laziness or some weariness at the commercialisation of the sport although having said that the game is now so much faster and thus more exciting to watch, particularly as played by Port. Just wish that kicking backwards would result in a “play on” call.

  14. Thanks John,
    More Power to the Almanac I say. I love reading the articles and on some I have to slow myself down to appreciate it more and let it soak in.

    My NYR is write more.

    Christmas; I say to my kids “You have opened more presents in the last half hour than I received in my whole life!” One part of it I spose.

Leave a Comment