Almanac Short Stories: Carlton dreaming, and Mediterranean Connections


The following two short stories are based on true events and people but, of course, adapted by me with my story teller licence.

Story #1 relates to a recently retired friend and Story #2 is a personal childhood memory of a family discussion in the early 1960s.

I thought that some in our ‘Footy Almanac’ community might enjoy the read and/or even relate to the content.





She observed him quietly, while she folded the ironing, her eyes empty. ‘Bill,’ she said. There was no reply. ‘Bill!’ she said again, raising her voice in exasperation.


He turned around and looked at her dreamily. ‘What are you doing?’ she asked. ‘You seem away with the fairies.’


Until she spoke, Bill had been dreaming of lying on the powder white sand of a southern Italian beach with its turquoise sea and spectacular vista, drinking a martini and snacking on Italian stuzzichino. Wonderful art galleries and other cultural attractions waited close by for when he tired of the sun and sea. He was in heaven.


‘Oh, sorry,’ Bill replied. ‘I was just contemplating the likelihood of Carlton winning the premiership this year.’ Still in his own dreamtime, Bill said this as he imagined an alluring Italian drinks waitress delivering his second martini.


‘For heaven’s sake Bill,’ she said. ‘Since you retired all you seem to do is spend time lazing about and doing very little else except watching sports on Kayo. I’m getting worried about you. You need to move, get out more, find a hobby, or something. As for Carlton winning the premiership, you really are away with the fairies.  Next you’ll be telling me that pigs can fly.’


‘I’m overwhelmed with my volunteering work at the moment,’ she said. ‘Why don’t you spend some of your ample retirement funds and take the opportunity to have some time away from home by taking a short holiday to a warmer clime?  It’ll do us both some good. You can laze around on a beach or whatever instead of on the couch and I can get some things done.’


Her suggestion was music to Bill’s ears. The lifestyle, art and vibrant cultural traditions of Southern Italy immediately came to mind. ‘Good idea love,’ he replied. ‘I’ll look at some options.’


He didn’t want to contemplate the stress and emotions associated with thinking about the likelihood or not of Carlton winning the premiership, so his mind went back to the second martini and the Italian beach.  Soon he was away with the fairies once again.





‘Some new Australians have bought the corner shop,’ said my father, upon returning home from purchasing the daily newspaper. ‘What sort of new Australians?’ asked my mother.


‘Greek,’ replied my father, ‘surname of Theopoulos.’


‘Owner’s name is George,’ said my father. ‘Nice chap and understands English quite well, a bit rough on the verbal but we got by alright. Introduced me to his family; wife Maria, a lad about 15 named Nico and a younger girl Anastasia, around 12 or so I’m guessing. George has done up the old shop pretty well with some very interesting Greek type artwork on the walls.’


My 14-year-old sister, who had feigned interest in the conversation to this point, suddenly sat up from her lounging position when hearing Nico’s name and age mentioned. ‘What a cool name,’ she said. ‘Probably short for Nicholas,’ said my mother. ‘He’ll be in your class I reckon.’  My sister smiled thoughtfully.


Sitting quietly, I recalled once watching some Greek and Italian kids play soccer at Sandy Bay Beach in Hobart and wondered if Nico could play AFL football. No soccer for Greeks in our town.


‘George has invited us down later today for a drink and snacks,’ said my father. ‘Wants me to try a Greek beer,’ winking at my mother, ‘and he has some special wine for ladies on offer. Maria is providing some food treats for us to try.’  ‘Mm, I’d better bake a cake this afternoon then; can’t arrive with nothing,’ said my mother. ‘No,’ said dad. ‘George insisted that we don’t take anything, says it is the way of things in Greek culture. Apparently, when we invite them to our place we will be expected to reciprocate in the same way.’  ‘I’ll feel strange not taking anything,’ said my mother. ‘They’ll find that Australians will not be used to that type of arrangement, especially in this town.’


Listening to this exchange, I pondered what it was that Greeks ate and if I could influence Nico to try Aussie rules football and barrack for Carlton.



More from Allan Barden can be read Here.




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  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Cracking reads Allan – can readily identify with the ‘far away thoughts’, you capture the essence so well.

  2. roger lowrey says

    Interesting yarns Allan. In the case of another small town, Winchelsea, our most celebrated “new Australian” was Valentino Bruno, an Italian POW who became beloved by the Winch locals. So much so that he stayed on as a free settler after the war finished.

    He and his wife Maria and three children settled in Winch where they supplied an abundance of fresh fruit & vegies and flowers. The ongoing benevolence of their provision of these fresh items, free of charge, to the local hospital and Catholic church subsequently saw a wing of the hospital named after the family.

    The post war Italians – pronounced “Eye-tallions” by my dad – were his particular favourites. “Good hard workers who could teach some of our lazy layabouts a lesson or two!” I’m sure the Brunos were one of many such post-war immigration stories.

    BTW thanks for coming to our lunch last week Allan. Great to don the black shorts and catch up with you and other Almanackers for a home game.


  3. Great stuff, Allan.

    Look forward to more, please.

  4. G’day Allan, ‘Far away thoughts resonated strongly with me ranging from personal one on one encounters to a dreary meeting that’s going nowhere but the pressure to look engaged & interested is strong. Just hold any questions until my mind is back in the room OK?

    Your story about small towns and new Australians rekindled a lot of childhood memories – many Italians settled in our country town establishing small farms with vineyards, orange orchards, vegetables where they worked hard all day. I always felt concerned about the women dressed in black who worked equally hard and had a sense of sadness about them. I later learned about their traumatic war experiences, grief and homesickness. The second generation flourished.

  5. Hi Allan – From the other side of the fence. Our “New Australian” family arrived in South Melbourne in the early 1950’s. Once we children started school it wasn’t long before vegemite sandwiches were included on the menu. Sadly parents are gone but the friendships between the new and the old Aussies that started back then continue to this day. Footy connection – I remember my sister and her friend Linda dressed in their navy duffle coats and wearing their Carlton scarves braving Melbourne winters to watch their team win or lose.

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