Falling, flapping, away from the nest




Joe and I have known each other for nigh on a decade now: he, taller, bearded, an earnest, left-armed science student; me smaller, slighter, a street urchin-ish journalism undergrad. It’s a Friday in the fading strokes of February, La Nina settled in, thankfully, at the hoof of a stroppy year.


There is a lot to like about today. The COVID test I had taken was returned negative, the cold that had brought said test about, dissipated. There is a new Foo Fighters album to be found in my Spotify library. There is no-one at the new cricket nets to frown at our music. I wonder what the Almanac would make of 100 gecs?


We’ve just got back from a bike riding trip. A week from Beechworth to Lakes Entrance, up Mount Hotham, with a support crew fashioned from a mate and Joe’s partner. Feet in creeks, milkshakes for lunch. Six kilometres from Hotham’s summit, the axle in Joe’s back wheel burst from its housing and slid sideways from the wheel. Doggedly, we endeavoured to fix it. Doggedly, the bugger wouldn’t go back in.


An hour and a half spent by the side of the road, waving on concerned motorists, covered in grease and sweat, our skin reddening and expressions souring. The nearest bike shop was Bairnsdale, and so it came to pass that our bike trip became a road trip.


Our brothers are back at school, Years 11 and 12, The Pointy End. We’ve got around a fortnight left in our holidays and about four hours in the guts of the day where our time off shift lines up. It’s a little Weddo’s ‘Step In, Step Out,’ but replace the romance with bumpers.


My mate bowls quick. Bouncer, bouncer, full. Metronomic. Nicks me off. Steepling bounce from left-arm-over. Armpit ball, collarbone, ribcage. Fend, fend, fend. Feet in concrete, the angle produces a full out-swinger and I am berating myself already, snicking healthily to at least first slip.


It is a dance that is bizarre, it is a technique that’s wearing thin.


It is one of the last times we’ll have a net in Woodend. Joe’s off to college on the 21st. My housemate-to-be Alex rings at the conclusion of our just-a-bit-of-fun-but-god-I’m-cooked-now session: we’re in, move in date is Thursday.


My emotions are mixed. I am giddily excited, comprehensively terrified. I feel an urge to get a wriggle on. I am in the twilight of teenagerhood, 20 in March. 20! I remember writing here when I was 13. There is a perceived time crunch people of my age feel crashing around their shoulders, a year lost to pandemic with none of our infrastructure in place to fall back to.


What am I going to do?


Today I’m driving down with bookshop bags full of clothes and a cricket bag full of books. There’s a washing machine to pick up and keys to cut. Our first shop to do. Jobs to find.


For a few weeks, up and down for work. Then, as Yarra Park populates again, as the Coodabeens arrive to greet the Saturday, down for good. The car I share with my old man stays in Woodend. I’m going to find a Melbourne-suited bicycle, and ride everywhere, maybe with a laptop in a prospective satchel. I might skip the manbun, and I can’t grow a beard, but I do have a well-suited flannel?


I’m going to be flat, leaving my folks and my brother. Replacing the grey dreariness of the Woodend autumn and winter with the properly romantic Melbourne frigidity. It’s going to be hard to touch on. I will see them at the football. I will be there every week.


Drop by. I’ll draw a cuppa, and clear whatever our living room will be. See you at the footy.



The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in 2021. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order HERE



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  1. A very good read, Paddy. Takes me back almost half a century to a time in life that seemed so complex, exciting, full on, terrifying, promising, and so much more. It’s a cliche, but ‘enjoy the ride’!

  2. Love it Paddy. The fun of the new will carry you through for sure, but this piece is also a delightful tribute to your rich family life.

    I hope you find many things to write about – and find some things that you can’t (or best not).

  3. Enjoy the new chapter in your life. I feel for young people who have had to put their lives on hold as the rona swept the world. I’ve quite liked the slow down in pace, but I am one of the lucky ones.

    Maybe the Tigers can win another as a farewell to these COVID times.

  4. Nice one, Paddy. Oh, to be 20 again!!

    On second thoughts…….


  5. Nicole Kelly says

    As terrifying as these first steps are…you will become giddy with the feeling of freedom that you’re about to embark on. Enjoy every day!

  6. Peter Fuller says

    I’ve followed your life through the pages and screens of the Almanac in awe of your writing. Congratulations on your significant advance towards independence. I often think the best moments in life are those of anticipation, especially where big changes are in prospect. Then you’re able to dream about how wonderful your new life will be.
    Good luck. Journalism in whatever form it eventually takes you, is in good hands if you’re a typical student.

  7. Colin Ritchie says

    Good on you Paddy! As Jan said, ‘Oh, to be 20 again!’ Yes I’d love to be 20 again but I’m afraid 70 will have to do! Exciting times ahead Paddy, good luck!

  8. Beautiful writing, Paddy.
    step in, step out!

    What a life this is.
    I’m as perplexed now as I’ve ever been.
    And that is fine.
    When I read your story I remember that there are probably no answers to any of this.
    I love your observations and your spirit and your piecing-things-together.
    (I also love Woodend in the leaf-strewn autumn).

    So on we go, making sense of it as best we can. Which becomes its own answer.

    Keep tossing them up, Paddy.
    Communities are everywhere. I’m sure you’ll find others of yours or build your own very soon.
    See you around the traps.

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