A Footy Almanac Yarn about Writing Footy Almanac Yarns

 

I nod goodbye to the cleaner. Always gracious, she simply gets on with it. Aunty Chong’s nudging seventy. She’s paid two hundred dollars a week.

My school has a half soccer pitch. On its eastern wing, roots push up through the soil. Being by Orchard Road means this grass rectangle is worth hundreds of millions. Modern economies can be ridiculous, but Singapore’s is unfathomably so.

Traffic’s roaring along Grange Road, and I move through the thick heat. I turn onto Bishopsgate, with its modernist homes at thirty and forty million a pop. How can this be? Singapore often places opulence and poverty together in hideous proximity. I think of Aunty Chong.

I pass home, where it’s just us, and seven hundred and twenty-seven other condominiums. More people live here than Kapunda, the country town I’m from. The Singapore River travels sluggishly today. I arrive at the Zion Road Food Centre.

I’m in shorts. I only wear shorts. Apart from the wedding last March at the Fullerton Bay Hotel at Collyer Quay, but I reckon if I’d turned up in boardies, I’d have been fine. Well, maybe a few hours into the reception. The bride was Australian. They may have played, “Eagle Rock.”

Like the nation itself, the hawkers’ centre runs on obedience. Signs insist upon no smoking, touting, littering, bicycling, dogs, or pet birds, which is probably compassionate as there’s ducks hanging everywhere in their gastronomic gallows. Remember, pet birds have feelings too.

But there’s chicken rice. Fish steamboat. Pig organ soup. To avoid the chaos of free will, all seating is fixed. On each table is a plastic number.

Additionally, here in the republic, public restrooms often have labelled urinals. Join me and listen now to, say, a banker. Please don’t stare, but he’s phone up and zipper down.

Mate? I’m just in the loo. Yeah, urinal U3. Nah, U3. Nah, someone else is at urinal U2. Nah, mate, unfair. The Joshua Tree is a great album. Yeah. Yeah. Bono wasn’t always a tosser. Hey, get me a pint. Heineken. I’ll be there in a minute. Righto. Don’t let Stephanie leave.

On Thursdays I park outside, beneath an umbrella, as it’s often punishing sun or rain. With a Tiger in my tank (lager, not the carnivorous cat) I write.

It still astonishes me how my phone can get radio from distant lands. I’m probably like Bill Bryson who once remarked that he remains surprised electricity doesn’t leak out from the wall sockets.

As a radio listener I’ve tried to assimilate. About a month ago, a rock station launched. It confidently declared a national first, promising, “Singapore’s Only No Repeat Workday.” No, really. I’ll be disappointed if one afternoon, I’m skiddled by a Black Thunder loaded up with icy cold cans of Coke.

So I listen to footy talk, to catch the teams and previews, surfing between 5AA, 3AW, and Triple M. There’s curious contrast in sitting near Boon Tong Kway, while listening to Richo’s prediction for the Bombers and Magpies clash, or Stephen Rowe’s hyperventilations as a whiff of Hokkien Prawn Mee drifts across.

5AA host: Let’s go to Bill from Rosewater.

Bill from Rosewater: Hello there. I’m a long time listener, first time caller.

5AA host: Welcome, Bill. What’s on your mind?

Bill from Rosewater: I want to talk about the umpiring in last Sunday’s Port game.

5AA host: Utterly disgraceful. What’d you think, Bill?

And so on. But do you know what? I love it. It’s the familiarity of the accents, as secure as Christmas lunch, when the pudding comes out. It’s our dialogue, begging, on behalf of our discarded simplicities. Maybe it’s aural homesickness.

When I’m not in Australia I spend disproportionate time thinking about the bloody place. I devour its media, its music. Trawl its websites. About twice a year I reacquaint myself with Coopers, but it’s like the Indian cricket team. Brilliant at home, unaccountably poor in the other hemisphere.

I feel sad for the people who’ve declared they’ll never again live in their homeland. Canadians, Americans, Brits. If this is possible, they’re professional refugees.

So why are whites are ex-pats, when everyone else is an immigrant? I’ve been an ex-pat twice, and like the expansiveness, the exuberance of it. Australia is home, but I’m not sure at what point we’ll say enough, and stay put.

Singapore soon turns fifty, but is still under shadows: China, Malaysia, England, as local obsession with the Premier League is pathetically immature. Enjoy it sure, but to slavishly dedicate most of your sports reportage to it? To care more about Tottenham than your own Tampines Rovers?

Even Australia looms, as our boys drown their breakfast cereal in milk from near Melbourne. And we recently had some steak. Bewilderingly, it came from Omaha, Nebraska. So, that’s now two Nebraskan products I’ve had. Bruce’s album with its songs of despair and death. And, last Saturday, a modest segment of cow.

*

Soon, this will be done. We’ll return to Australia. I know Singapore’s weather the July day we fly home: 32 degrees, with a chance of an afternoon thunderstorm. Then, we’ll watch the Glenelg Tigers, and hop on a tram to Adelaide Oval, to yell at the Crows.

In the meantime, I stroll down here most weeks, and invest an hour. Keyboard and cup. Channel footy noise into my ears. Dwell upon ladder positions, hamstrings, handball receives.

After, the boys and I flop around in the pool for a boisterous bit. Puff them out. I like the late week rhythms, the easy routines. I especially like the time to write.

Our home and away season’s underway.

 

 

About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello

Comments

  1. Love it Mickey. Languid and playful as always. Indian cricket teams don’t travel? We’ll see next Saturday. Hope you are a better judge of beer.

  2. Thanks Peter. As you know Coopers is a premium product so in making an Indian cricket team analogy, I was thinking of the sport in its highest form which is the Test arena.

    Of course, I’m not overly confident about how we’ll go in this weekend’s semi-final. I’d actually be quite pleased if New Zealand won the whole thing!

    Regards

  3. GO TIGES!

    I’d love to get to Brighton Road one day and watch Glenelg play. Obviously not the same as the glory days of the 80s, but I’ll take it.

  4. Steve Hodder says

    Coopers could travel anywhere; or more aptly, I would travel anywhere for it!

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I’m having flashbacks to my late grandfather Mickey. When stationed as a cop at Port Lincoln, Coopers was the only beer that would make it across on the boat unscathed.

    Even when it was unfashionable during the 60s and 70s, he would be seen with his red-labelled long neck and glass with two-three blocks of ice.

    Is Rowey KGs love-child?

  6. Very well paced, Mickey. Enjoyed it very much.

  7. Thanks everyone.

    Steve Baker- I love going to watch Glenelg as it’s an old school event. We walk down from home, my membership means it’s about ten bucks entry, I stand on the terrace, beer’s not stupidly priced, and the footy goes well too. If you’ve ever across that way, give me a shout.

    Steve Hodder- not sure if I’ve been unlucky the few times I’ve had Coopers here, but for want of a better expression, it’s seemed jet-lagged when I’ve drank it in Singapore. Disappointing, as in England it was always a treat.

    Swish- I think Rowey replaced KG to play an identical role: the hyperbolic, passionate fan. To provide a counterpoint to his reserved, more considered co-host; initially Cornesy, then Chris McDermott and now Mark Bickley.

    I still fail to hear the on-air difference between McDermott and Bickley. There’s no contrast, but I guess someone decided that Bicks would rate better. They’ve moved from one former Crows’ captain to another, admittedly with a couple flags on his CV, and recently coaching experience. But their perspectives are similar.

    We all know they should’ve gone with Rulebook.

  8. Vic Gecas says

    Hi Mickey
    On occasions I use to wonder about the staff at the at the weather bureau in Singas. Everyday the same question “will it be 31 or 32 degrees?” At the end of each day “bugga…missed it by one”. Close close, yet so far….
    One bonus is you haven’t had to put up with the NAB non-event cup…competition…pre-season debacle…what a joke! Our WC Eagles may fall into the reserves table this season…sigh…

  9. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Mm, lovely. Precious moments, those.

  10. Thanks Smokie and Mathilde.

    Vic- I used to think that playing drums for AC/DC may have had a certain monotony to it, with those endless, but great songs all pounding away in a similar fashion. However weather forecasters here in Singapore could top that for predictability. I’d love them to try to slip in a “sleet tending to snow” one day. There’d be a few folks who’d buy it.

    Hard to get too excited about the footy yet. Although I’m always pleased to knock off Port!

  11. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Mickey. Beer doesn’t travel well. But good at home. I call it the Kris Srikkanth rule. My theory is drink the beer of the country you’re in. Always better. Looking forward to your Australian based stories.

  12. Mickey Randall says

    Thanks Luke.

    I’m on Koh Lanta in Thailand.

    I’m following your advice with a Chang.

    Just seen the cricket score. I reckon this is excellent.

    If only Danny Morrison were steaming in during the final.

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