A meeting of hearts and minds

Brian Matthews and John Harms

Brian Matthews and John Harms at the All Nations Hotel.

Perhaps the Almanac evening last Thursday night with Brian Matthews should be called the meeting of tragics.  I have read Brian’s wonderful autobiography “A Fine and Private Place” and in fact, it was probably John Harms who first alerted me to this memoir.  It is often hard to come across town for a function on a weeknight, but the events are always worth the effort.

For me, walking into an Almanac event is like a meeting of old friends, I’ve only met this mob in September 2010 when I first attended a Grand Final lunch.  John wasn’t there that day, but I was welcome by fellow editor Paul Daffey and welcomed by John Mosig and David Downer and Gigs   and Dips and Andrew Fitfall and John Butler and a Pies supporter wearing a fake Dane Swan tattoo sleeve.  Rina and I couldn’t believe how friendly and warm and engaging these mostly blokes were.  Since then, my world has shifted on its axis and I feel blessed with all the warm friendships, connections and opportunities that community of writers and footy tragics have provided.  Thursday night was no exception.

When John Mosig and I mossied in from the bar, we ended up sitting next to the guest of honour and his wonderful wife Jane Arms. And John Harms.  John Harms is one of the most generous people you are likely to come across, he introduces and shares people’s love of this world in a way that you feel instantly connected to each other.  I felt in awe as I sat and listened to tales from the two Johns, Brian and Jane.  With entrée’s out of the way, John interviewed Brian in his casual, thoughtful, funny way and that led Brian to tell stories about life, love and football.  Jane added a few fragments of stories and all 25+ participants drank it all in.  This was a room of story tellers, of people sharing what engages them in life.

While eating our main meal and beyond, Jane and I talked separately and together to the young men at the other end of the table.  One had heard about this event and invited his friends to a catch up and so they became connected through food, wine, beer, talk and later the cricket.  The staff turned the TV on to the second day of the cricket, and as we talked, wicket after Australian wicket fell and suddenly, we were all disengaged.  Still chatting, Agar began to bat, and moment by moment he drew our table in.  Most of the others had retired to the bar, or were chatting around the wonderful real fireplace.  We could hear the cheers and groans float into our room as the game progressed.

As the evening went on, Jane, an accomplished editor, publisher and agent, and I began to talk to each other.  By the end of the night, I had new firm friends and fellow mad Sainters, and the possibility of meeting again in the future at a game or in life.  The Alamanac community, via John Harms and Paul Daffey hard work and inclusive love of sport and writing and people, leave us all welcomed and engaged. I will be forever grateful.

As the staff were hustling us out of the dining room and we joined the boys at the bar, Agar was leading us out of the cricketing desert and was to become a phenomenon and juggernaut of expectation by the end of the night.  The Aussies may have not won the First Ashes, but they have won back the hearts and minds of the cricketing world and we will be glued to the next lot on Friday as we watch the drama continue.

Meanwhile, after chatting with Cookie and another new friend Troy, I gave Brian and Jane a lift back to where they were staying, fully sated in meeting up with great people and sharing a world event that we would remember for many years to come.


About Yvette Wroby

Yvette Wroby writes, cartoons, paints through life and gets most pleasure when it's about football, and more specifically the Saints. Believes in following dreams and having a go.


  1. Yvette – it was a great evening. At the end of the night I found myself leaning against the fire place chatting with Annie (the Irish lass from behind the bar). We talked bulltish and all tings Irish until I remembered I had a home to go to. Cracking good fun.

    I reckon JTH’s haircut made him look like Richard Gere.

  2. Absolutely splendid night (and a magnificent steak, one of the best I’ve had, and I’ve had a few in my time). Looking forward to the lunch on July 26. With Syd Sherrin as speaker, I imagine there will be kick to kick in the beer garden after lunch.

  3. I was wondering about that haircut. Someone should tell him it makes him look older — and more serious. (I thought you were going to say less elfin Wrap – what made you change your mind? – Ed)

    You’re so right Yvette – Agar’s heroic knock has won back the hearts & minds for the Baggy Green in a way Cricket Australia with all their miscued Big Bash razzamatazz has failed. The match may have joined Gallipoli, Ned Kelly & Julia Gillard in the annals of Glorious in Defeat Legends of the Fatal Shore, but hey, that’s the way we see the World from down here looking up.

  4. A modest (?) request: Some tech wizard your way needs to find a way to stream or Skype or YouTube these for those of us across the great pond. This one sounds like it’d even be worth being up at the ungodly (for me) hour of 6 am. Thanks for the report.

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