Almanac Life: What is a gluten–free, organic, non–dairy, save–the–whale girl to do, on a cold Melbourne Saturday?

Saturday 22 August 2020

I wake this morning, not a particularly happy Jan. Several reasons, but too boring to articulate. So, I decide that the best way to get through the day, perhaps, is to indulge in a little fantasy. Maybe we could call it imagination.

The Courtin/Harris household doesn’t break the fast until late in the morning. At 11am I decide we are going out to breakfast to one of our favourite cafes, and I would order whatever I fancied.

The morning is cold, with rain pelting down.

Melbourne’s winter weather always reminds me of London, so what better place to be than in that wonderful City for this morning’s brekkie.

Sitting, overlooking the Thames at one of our favourite cafes, I’m back in the 1970s, enjoying being 30 again and relishing the day ahead. Marshall asks the waitress for eggs and mushrooms on rye toast, and I break with my normal gluten–free, organic, non–dairy, save–the–whale fare, and choose a delicious Gourmet Fruit Loaf, with thick butter, that is just too tempting to overlook. (I have very simple tastes when it comes to food!)

With bellies full, we walk along the river, despite the cold and rain, and then over the Hungerford Bridge to the Festival Hall complex. There we’ll visit the Hayward Gallery for an hour or so, then onto the booking office in Festival Hall. Just reading about the forthcoming concerts at either Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room, would always bring a smile, and never a month, sometimes even a week, went by without attending one.

Now it’s time for shopping. South Melbourne Market and the dreaded Coles is our usual domain, but today, we’re back in London at Portobello Market in Notting Hill Gate. We catch a bus from Charing Cross to The Gate as it’s affectionally known, wander down Westbourne Grove and join the milling throngs of aficionados, there to spend a day never to be forgotten.

The rain hasn’t relented and at 4pm the DVD goes into the player. Wow, I could be anywhere. Simply anywhere. I toss–up between London, Paris, Barcelona and Berkeley, California. Oh, the memories!

I choose London’s St Martin’s in the Fields in Trafalgar Square. Been there so many times over the years, never to be disappointed. Brahms, in all his magnificent glory, rings through the old church for two hours, and I am lost in concentration and wonderment.

Leaving there, we wander down the stairs to the Café in the Crypt, where the original brick-vaulted ceilings and historic tombstones line the floor of this 1700s masterpiece of a building. The café itself serves all sorts of goodies, and is best known for its apple crumble and custard. Far too tempting, especially for a gluten–free, organic, non–dairy, save–the–whale person, so I indulge! Marshall chooses what Pommies love: fish and chips, followed by some gooey, creamy concoction that only he could ingest.

At 8pm it’s time for sport, and back to reality. The Swans are on and I’m not sure how we’ll go, after last week’s wonderful win. I decide to watch it live, instead of recording it.

By half–time, with a miserly one goal to our credit, and things not looking too promising, it’s time for more imagining and travelling.

I don’t have too far to go this time. A few kilometres away to the MCG. It’s Saturday September 24th 2005, and I’m sitting on Level 2 of the Ponsford Stand, four rows from the front, surrounded by red and white. West Coast supporters are in the opposite aisle. With a 20–point lead going into the third quarter, this is very unfamiliar territory for Swans fans, and nerves are jangling. For the life of me I can’t remember the sequence of play for the next hour or so, except that we added just two points that quarter and went into the final term with a five–point lead.

As our young kids strive to add a score tonight – 15 years later – against Freo, the last quarter of that Grand Final will never be forgotten.

What is etched in my mind is Amon Buchanan’s goal to put us in front with not long to go; Kirky’s outstretched cramp-inducing horizontal diving mark; the West Coast player, running to scoop up the ball – mere metres from their goal, and leaving it behind; Leo Barry kicking out from a point, only to be marked by Dean Cox; Cox kicking it forward with the clock on about 32 minutes. And then Leo. Leo Barry and that mark! Of course I remember that – it will stay embed in memory until I die!

As the siren sounds in Perth at 10.30pm tonight, and the kids have managed just two goals for the game, losing miserably to Freo, I’m still in Melbourne on that momentous Saturday in 2005. To this day I can still see the tears in the eyes of thousands of Swans supporters. We hugged complete strangers – in the stands, outside the MCG, in the streets; at Punt Road after the game; walking to the hotel at midnight, and at breakfast in South Melbourne the next morning still decked out in red and white. We were all in footy heaven. We had triumphed. We tried to make it last and hoped it would never end. We were ecstatic and almost in disbelief – it had finally happened after not many years shy of a century.

“It’s time for bed,” Marshall whispers in my ear, completely unaware of my heightened state of consciousness.

I wander downstairs to the bedroom, jump into bed and wonder where I can transport myself for the rest of the night. It’s been such an exciting and busy day. From Melbourne to London and back.

Sleep doesn’t come easily and I wonder why on earth I would want to be anywhere else, other than my lovely warm, comfortable bed in the lovely comfortable suburb of Albert Park, despite the cold and rain.

Can’t possibly get excited about waking up in London, or Paris, or Barcelona, or Berkeley , especially at this moment in history, so I switch back to stark reality.

And the reality isn’t bad at all – not at all! (Apart from my footy team losing!)

Go Bloods!


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About Jan Courtin

A Bloods tragic since first game at Lake Oval in 1948. Moved interstate to Sydney to be closer to beloved Swans in 1998. My book "My Lifelong Love Affair with the Swans" was launched by the Swans at their headquarters at the SCG in August 2016.


  1. Luke Reynolds says

    Enjoyed the journey Jan. I’m dreaming of being in my seat at the ‘G, but who knows when that will be!

  2. Lynn Baker says

    Oh the memories Jan ….. of times living in London and travels to the other Countries mentioned .!
    Our Bloods 2005 GF win at the G , watching in row 4 from the Ponsford Stand . Celebrations into the early hours the next morning , and later on in the morning welcomed our victorious Bloods at the oval besides our former home , the Lakeside Oval.
    I think our kids will be part of our future success and believe they will mature very quickly .
    Cheer Cheer .

  3. Wonderful story Jan. I can put myself in those places, London, Festival Hall, South Melbourne markets, 2005 Grand Final. Leo Barry’s mark etched in my memory forever too. You made my day. Take care. Go Bloods!!

  4. Donna McGrath says

    Once again a great read. Love the way you take people on a journey with you. Yes that mark of Leo Barry’s will never be forgotten, but maybe the dismal score of Saturday night will be. But hey, GO BLOODS. ?

  5. polly courtin says

    wow so cool! back and forth. london oh london town. i was on the plane with you!! i was walking along the thames. i was at a caf i love in highbury islington!!! woooha. a great read. cool as!! i was there with you Jan! great idea….. xx polly

  6. What better times than Melbourne locked down by Covid to take trips down memory lane. A whole day without needing to return to reality! That’s the spirit – keep dreaming.

  7. Julie Cattlin says

    Now, Jan, that was a wonderful story. Great memories of great times and places. I do like to remember events from the past. Special ones.
    The difference in your story and people who live in the past is quite stark. And you’re certainly not doing that. Just warm and cozy memories!!
    It’s actually started me singing the wonderful song, Memories.
    Unfortunately I have such a bad memory, that I can only remember the first line!!
    And your game. I did hear the result the next day. Very sad.
    But as with everything, there’s always next time. And maybe the memory of this game will fade away and only the 2005 will remain.
    Ah, memories!
    Julie. ??

  8. Many thanks to you all for your kind words.

  9. Daryl Schramm says

    I’m going to try to transport myself back to London just over 12 months ago for the cricket when I hit the sack tonight. Has to be worth a try for one who generally takes a while to nod off. Thanks Jan.

  10. Oh, Daryl, wouldn’t it be just wonderful to go to a live cricket match! Can’t wait! I hope you enjoyed your trip back to London!

  11. Pauline Forster says

    Loved my London adventure with you. Thank you for sharing your imagination. I look forward to our next journey. Cheer cheer ??

  12. Many thanks Pauline. Let’s enjoy our Swans journey together! Cheer cheer

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