The Final Quarter in the Happy Place

It’s been more than just a home, this old house; it’s our Happy Place.

It’s the happy place we go to whenever our minds take us back through memories of childhood; a place we keep close to our hearts. Laughter in the kitchen; endless summers’ cricket matches in the back yard; Get Smart on the telly in the back room; countless Christmases with stockings hanging over the fireplace; Mum and Dad and my two brothers; our family; our family home.

These moments, over nearly fifty years, all occurred here, inside and just outside these walls. It’s so much more than mere bricks and mortar.

I hate reality TV shows. However, recently when I saw an ad where a teary-eyed renovation contestant blubbered, “This house just wraps its arms around you”, that more or less sums up our feelings for our own.

So here we are on this Saturday afternoon, about forty or fifty neighbours, friends and family – those who have enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of our parents and of this house over many years – gathered to say farewell. With Mum and Dad both gone now, sadly, the house has been sold and it’s time for we three sons to move on.

Our own emotional farewell to the place is another week away; today is about reminiscing, about sharing stories of happy days captured in black and white photos, and about laughter. There are sandwiches, sausage rolls and party pies, and the trestle table bar is doing a brisk trade. The music in the background is the familiar soundtrack of our childhood – “The Girl From Ipanema’, Stan Getz, Dave Brubeck, the Beatles.

The afternoon is roaring along, the maudlin speech I had planned mercifully vetoed by my brothers. Today is meant to be a happy day, after all. Amidst the throng a phone is thrust before me, its display reminding me that somewhere a football match is underway. Of course, we always knew the game was on today but this is such an important occasion that we have agreed not to ruin the mood by watching yet another dismal Melbourne performance on the telly, or by listening to our beloved, hapless Dees fail miserably on the radio.

Hang on a sec, what’s this? Bugger me, the phone tells me we’re four goals up on the Crows in the second quarter at Adelaide Oval. It’s May 2014 and positive news for Dees’ fans has indeed been sparing of late. But we’re Melbourne supporters through and through and the pain and despair of many barren seasons has taught us that this lead will not last. That said, it’s extremely rare for us to find ourselves in front at any stage of any match, so as much as we know that we have more important duties to attend to today, from this moment on the lure of the phone is hard to resist.

Regular updates tell us we’re 28 points up at half time, then 12 points up at the last change. For us, it‘s a gallant performance by our boys, but surely only a matter of time now before the home side reels in our lead in front of a roaring crowd and runs away to a resounding victory.

As feared, as expected, the Crows kick the first goal of the last quarter to reduce the gap to six points. Here we go, we thought, the bubble of hope has burst and it’s time to return our focus to food and drinks and to ensure our guests are being well attended to. I can barely bring myself to look back at the phone; I don’t want to know what’s no doubt unfolding at Adelaide Oval. But wait, we’re informed Nathan Jones has just has just goaled, and the Dees are back out to a 10-point lead at the 14-minute mark. That does it, everything else around us has been relegated to secondary importance.

In our extended family there are only two kinds of people – Demons fans and traitors. Half a dozen of us – brothers, cousins, cousins once removed – stand at the bar, dreaming an impossible dream with fifteen minutes left to play. Our only source of information is a phone which sits on the trestle table laboriously updating every thirty seconds or so. Almost immediately the screen blinks and we’re back to four points the difference – what fools we were for believing we might win!

The tension is palpable as each subsequent update reveals no change. So this is what following footy has come to in the 21st century, a group of people standing around an inert phone display. With so much at stake thirty seconds seems an eternity until the squiggly circular thing indicates that an update is imminent.

Unbelievable! Jack Watts finds Jamar in the square and Melbourne are back out to a 10-point lead at the 20-minute mark! Three minutes later Tyson boots another and we’re – gulp – 16 points up! We’re excited but no high-fives just yet, we’re Demons fans after all, and we know not to do that until the final siren sounds. Just to confirm our doubts, the Crows strike back almost immediately with a goal then a point; at the 26-minute mark it’s nine points the difference. Can we hold on?

The party continues around us while we stand around the phone like it’s some kind of sacred deity, staring at it in agonised anticipation of each update, feeling helpless and at its mercy. But nothing is happening – 27 minutes gone, 28, then 29 minutes and still no change to the scores. Was the phone broken? Each second is precious, each update with no change to the score: gold.

At 30 minutes we begin to dream again, then at 31 we are calling for the bloody siren. The dreaded inevitable happens as the phone updates to show a Crow goal; that brings the difference back to three points. Nerves are strained; one cousin can’t stand it and leaves the room.

At the 33-minute mark the scores suddenly vanish and we’re staring, blinking incomprehensively at the screen until we realise that finally, mercifully, it’s full time. It’s all over, a boisterous cheer erupts and drowns out all other noise in the room, followed by a full-throated rendition of “Grand Ol’ Flag”, even with the clapping that embarrasses us a bit.

It’s a great victory for the club and a sure sign that finally we are on the way back. As good as this moment is, I can’t help feeling that somehow, on today of all days, it was meant to be.

This house has seen many similar post-match celebrations over the decades, but far more incidences of mourning and introspection. But on this occasion, for this family and for this house, a result such as this has deep significance and resonates around the walls for loved ones who are not here.

Today at least – the house was destroyed by fire four days later, four days before settlement was due, but that’s another story – this is indeed a Happy Place.



  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Wow, that’s some ending. What happened next Peter?

    Love the idea of those footy matches that unfold in the background, before grabbing everyone’s attention.

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