Home

On the first morning we woke in the rental house we still live in, the Cygnet toddled to the back door. He was two and a half. He stood in the frame looking out over the grass of the yard and the lane that extends away beside the house and without turning back to me said, Can we go home now?

His words dipped into my own uncertainty. I’d never lived in this part of town. I didn’t know the roads, the direction of the corner store. I didn’t know the noiselessness of suburban back streets. I wasn’t even sure yet of the route to get back to the coast I grew up on.

Seven years later, we know every vessel of the place. So when we received the ‘vacant possession please’ notice a few weeks ago, the same sense of pathlessness overtook me. And this time there was school to think about and friends’ houses and the well mapped routes to workplaces – a whole system of positioning ourselves in the world would have to be unpicked and stitched in somewhere else. Despite my reassurances, the Cygnet laid his head in my lap and wept when we told him: There’ll never be a home as good as this one.

Saturday mornings came around and I headed out to look at properties to rent … or buy. Please can we reinvigorate the Sydney cost-of-living allowance? For everyone? I stood in the wide window of a sixties gem by the Cook’s River, the escarpment staring heavily over my shoulder, a motley carpet underfoot and tried to imagine myself waking there. I walked the ashen blue tiles of an unfamiliar kitchen wondering if our breakfast banter could exist in that space. I stared at an entire wall of men’s trainers which dressed a soundproofed spare room and wondered whose shoes I would be fitting into. David Lynch came to mind. In all those new spaces I was looking for much more than a floorplan.

 

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I am sure that during the summer, Lance had a few of those moments. He said it himself – leaving Hawthorn was the hardest thing he’s ever had to do. And as he strutted through a lakeside preseason and kicked back in the Entertainment Quarter with yesterday’s papers, I’m sure he caught the odd glimpse of himself in the red and white and took a second look. He’d been poo and wee since seventeen!

I have no idea then why the public relations or sports psychology departments of football clubs tote the ‘just another game’ line when a significant player is coming up against their old team for the first time, why they feed it through the player’s mouth when other players, current and past, when supporters, commentators – humans generally – and history are humming the familiar tune of feeling. Must be the parent-style veneer of ‘it’ll all be ok.’ Isaac Smith called it like it was: I’d say it’s the most anticipated game of the year. Bet the big fella would love to kick ten on us.

Despite an 8am start for recorder ensemble, a full day of school and an hour and a half of trapeze, the Cygnet accompanied me to Homebush. Please can we get rid of the stadium deal? For everyone? The mood was up, a buzz spreading for the tall forward line we all wanted to acquaint ourselves with. We sniggered at the roster: Franklin off, Reid, Goodes and Tippett on. Reid off, Goodes, Tippett and Franklin on. Goodes off, Tippett and Franklin and Reid on. The Cygnet and I met O’Reilly Boy Max in the stands (our Cob was in Melbourne for work). Connie was there in front, her husband at home with a bad back, her sister in his seat. Nigel was there with Gwen, mother to us all.

I’m always grateful when the Swans start fast; it still feels like a luxury. They looked sharp. Hannebery was playing mine mine mine from the start, he and Kennedy bullying Hawthorn in the middle. Reid had his marking mittens on. Tippett just looked strong. Lance was still finding the posts. There was plenty of appetite and some good movement. Really it’s a game of appetite and movement. And gee I like that Swan Bird.

Having polished off his pie and chips, the Cygnet took to his book in the second, a tale about a Nanny Pig leading kids astray in a fictional town. Lance led his kicks the same way. I couldn’t work out whether either of them were genuinely un-phased by Hawthorn’s building system and run. The margin narrowed as the behind tally rose and took our collective systolic pressure with it.

Gwen brought out her Mother’s Day treat at half time – a Tupperware of chocolate delight, topped with a crumble of Peppermint Crisp. With the first bite, I suggested she might like to get it down to the dressing room.

It’s not only the players who have to find themselves at home in their new team. We too inhabit our team like a home. We know its solid structures, its foundations, pillars and walls. We are aware of the loose swinging doors that need work. We imagine renovations that need to happen and regret some that have. It took me a while to see Teddy without the sash. It took some weeks to adjust to Mummy in the red hooped socks and is odd to see him in grey. We need to find a place each new season for the expensive decorative elements we buy, the best place to show them off to guests. We need to walk past them many times in the corridor until we feel they’re truly part of the scenery. Sydney supporters don’t seem sure yet whether Lance really is the centrepiece he’s been sold to us as. The jury still seems hung – half hubristic for the snare and potential, half cynical about the cost. And perhaps he feels the same way. The apology to Birchall said it all. And frankly I kind of like the moments of doubt.

Our heads were so deep in our own back yards in the third that we didn’t notice Rioli’s early exit. The Swans’ hands and pressure were largely sound, but when the Hawks took, and immediately added to, the lead, there was a feeling that they could really run away with it. We know the neighbours. We remember the battles we’ve had from year to year. We know which ones we can get along with and which drive us totally mad. Parker stalked Shoenmakers like an alley cat and minutes later with his best buddy Gibson on the mark, Lance avoided another shot on goal. Connie turned with urgency: We just need Buddy to kick a goal and then the flood gates can open. The Cygnet finished his book and was ready to barrack.

Lance kicked a goal five minutes into the last quarter. Swung it accurately from just inside 50. The smile enormous. And moments later, from a hunched position that looked like heavy fatigue, suddenly he’s on the ground and on the end of Jetta magic, prone and poking his toe at a 10 point lead. O’Reilly Max had only one word: le déluge. It was a flood of pressure and belief built on the apparent subconscious permission from one centre half forward to his new team.

 

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The Cygnet and I drove back down Parramatta Rd. It was just past 11pm. Can we talk about those words which are hard to define without using the word itself? he piped. Sure, why not? I was to find them and he would make an attempt. Tradition. Conscience. Attribute. Word. I was thinking of home.

We made an offer to our landlord last week and found out that he’s accepting it. It looks like we might be staying after all. Of course Nic Nat will tell you that nothing is certain until you have a contract in your hand. But it looks like we‘ll be kicking on in our own back yard, arcing the Sherrin around the hills hoist, using the telegraph pole in the lane to shade the eyes against the winter twilight, standing in the door frame looking west as the sun sets.

 

 

 

 

About Mathilde de Hauteclocque

Swans member since 2000, Mathilde likes to wile away her winters in the O'Reilly stand with 'the boys', flicking through the Record and waiting to see the half backs drive an explosive forward movement. She lives in Sydney and raises a thirteen year old Cygnet.

Comments

  1. Yvette Wroby says

    Dear Mathilde, lovely writing and great story telling. Glad you can stay at the house. Glad your Swans made a stand. Keep writing. Beautifully done.

    Yvette

  2. Another great piece Mathilde. I thought the Hawks had you as well when they hit the front. Glad to see you might be able to stay at home. Moving house is always a stressful experience. I have done it 15 times in the last 20 years!

  3. Stunning piece.

  4. Chris Bracher says

    The footy notion of “home” Mathilde…..I get it completely. As a rusted-on Blood I am still just coming to grips with bug Kurt in Gods-own colours. Franklin stretches me even further. I do however take great delight that the boys we were gifted by Hawthorn – mcGlynn, Kennedy….and the ones we got from within a stones-throw of Glenferrie….Hannas and AJ ( please get “well” soon) are entrenched as part of the brethren.
    When Pebbles O’Keefe wanted out to the Hawks and when the club thought Jude was appropriate trade bait for Fev from the Blues, the home foundations were vulnerable. They stayed….the home is intact.

  5. Beautiful blending of ideas Mathilde….in fact picturesque!!

    kate

  6. MdH, just brilliant, great piece. LIke djlitsa, we have been constantly on the move, my little (?) Hawk will celebrate turning 14 this weekend in house number 8, 2 of which were in your fair city. Glad it looks like you are staying put.

    More please, want to hear about your barista footy talking mates and the cygnet’s junior footy progress

    Lovely writing, thanks

    Sean

  7. E.regnans says

    Thanks Mathilde.
    You have again taken us on a wonderful mental journey.

  8. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Mathilde you wove the moving house bit in too the footy side of the story brilliantly glad you don’t have to move . djlitsa is that 15 , DCM in 20 years ?
    Thanks Mathilde

  9. Love it Mathilde. Home is where the heart is.

    It think it takes a while for a house to become a home, but once it is a home it feels like a well worn jumper. Just perfect.

  10. Stainless says

    The Swannies are the ultimate renovators aren’t they? Not content with turning Mitch Morton into a Premiership player (who contributed significantly on the day), you’re now recycling Tom Derricx into a useful appliance!

    Love the whole analogy – great stuff.

  11. Gordon Ricketts says

    thanks Mathilde, a great read. I sense your frustration at having to go to the olympic stadium when the SCG has the atmosphere. If only for a train link the SCG would contend more vigorously logistics wise at least, but govts too short term for that to be on the radar!

  12. Love a story with a happy ending or two, Mathilde!

  13. daniel flesch says

    Like everyone else says , Mathilde , another lovely , evocative , touching story. But , sorry ,one criticism…. the description of Hawthorn colours as “poo and wee” is unoriginal , childish , tired and – obvious pun – crap. You see this put-down on the blogs , usually made by aggressive young men who can’t spell. It has no place in a dignified forum like the Almanack. Moreover , anyone whose piss is gold in colour is probably distinctly unwell. Altogether no joke. That said , am looking forward to lots more of your wonderful contributions. Salut.

  14. Glenda Ellis says

    Love this! I went to the game and at half time I thought that Buddy was still playing for Hawthorn, his kicking was so inaccurate. the metaphor of moving home is so apt. well done!

  15. Great piece Mathilde. Biggest pressure point of the match was in the rooms after the game when the camera started on Buddy for the Swans club song. Now how did that go….

  16. Andrew Starkie says

    Beautiful Mathilde.

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