A woman and her baristas (or The role of football in the un-milking of coffee)

Encountering new people means finding out about them. When people begin to get to know me, pretty quickly they learn that I’ve just finished a Masters in Writing, that I am trying to write, that I work part time in the bookshop of a contemporary art museum. They find that I grew up on art, serving peanuts at the openings of my father’s graphics gallery. They learn that he is French and I am half, that I have a single son and that I live with my partner, the father of said son, that we are not married and he works full time in the arts. They learn that I like to cook and if things progress well, I cook for them. They understand that I will plan dessert first. When they come to my house, they will see my nature in the rooms, on the walls, on the bookshelves. They will slowly discover my personal culture in the aesthetic curation of my home. And in the face of all of that, people, as we all do, will make assumptions about the type of person I am.

And then, there will come a point where I will quite naturally reveal that I watch AFL footy. They will be bemused. And then, I will reveal that I go to games. And bemusement will turn into surprise. The probing will progress and it will become clear that I know many of the players names, not only from my own team, that my knowledge is quite up to date, particular and opinionated. They will say less and less from this point on. Until I am admitting to having been a Swans member for the past 14 years. And then they will look slowly towards the collection of ceramic and paper and plastic Swans in the shadow box hanging on the dining room wall and it will all fall into place. And I will begin my defence. Football is more than sport. It is an arc on which to hang many of life’s philosophical queries. It is a performance.


On the days that I work, I buy my coffee from a small French Patisserie close by. The main barista was always reliable. Until he went off to do a personal training course, began his own business and cut his days to three. A new guy came to supplement the stocks. Tall. A little over-friendly to begin with, too eager to step into the role of confidante. He grew a ginger beard and settled down. But his coffee is on the milky side. I’ve been known to go up the road if I can see he’s on the machine.

There’s a particular way for a relationship to develop between a woman and her baristas. I like to dance between a certain demureness – restrained anticipation – and an easy friendliness; it’s a stance which I’ve found inspires the best coffee. From the baristas’ side, they must make certain assumptions about their customers. These boys know I work at the Museum of Contemporary Art. I wear sculpted black. I flick the Herald rather than the Telegraph while I wait.

Last Monday, I waited in my usual position and listened to a boisterous conversation between Mr Trainer and Mr Ginger and another female client, who preferred her coffee familiar.  She was talking about the weekend and ‘the game’ and it being out at ANZ and not liking to travel out to Homebush on a Saturday because it made her feel depressed. Both Trainer and Ginger chimed in. Ginge was going. Trainer was anxious for his own team on Sunday. North Melbourne. Amazing that this had never come up between us, not even on a Monday morning, when I may have rested the sports pages open at the AFL, not altogether unnoticeable in New South Wales. The boisterous female called out, ‘Oooh I’ve got a feeling it’s your year!’ And he made a joke about the weekend’s result as she was half way out the door.

I risked it.

‘Clearly she didn’t see the game.’

They both paused and looked up.

‘And I tipped you guys,’ I added.

‘Everybody did,’ said Trainer without skipping a beat. ‘The guys on Wednesday night said we were a sure thing.’

I nodded. Ginge handed me my coffee.

‘It’s ok. Let’s put it down to Goldstein’s shoulder,’ I offered. ‘Structure was upset, Petrie out of position. But Thomas looked good. Kicked straight.’

I made sure I was almost out the door as I finished my assessment and turned back to see both of them standing stock still with vital smiles across their faces, half unsure, half thrilled. The coffee was the strongest and best that Ginge has ever made. And I’m not sure what the conversation will be on Friday or Sunday or Monday, whether I will be able to maintain the same kind of aloof detachment anymore.


It would be hard not to have noticed that there’s a new boy come to supplement the stocks in Sydney town. Buddy this, buddy that. Buddy hell up here!

When he was 17 and I was 30, I, like all blue blooded girls, watched his skin-folds with more intent. I too focussed myself in front of the telly, on those green green eyes and long limbs and on that pure skill and chutzpah. Franklin does add a certain tension to the season for long term Swans supporters. The myth of Buddy coupled with the knowledge that we’re in a long term thing from now on, a second marriage of sorts. We will need to get to know him, and the frisson may or may not give way to familiarity and it may take time.

I have made a conscious decision since he’s come north, to refer to him from Round 1 only as Lance. I decided that the maternal approach was what was needed for my relationship with Franklin. I don’t want to know who he was at Bondi with while his girlfriend was away, or the races or how he is fitting into Sydney life, who he is lending his car to and whether his puppy is missing him, where he spends his Wednesdays and how he puts his bins out.

I just want to see how he is going to fit. How are they going to use him? Like some exotic stitch embroidered on a gown, how will they work him around for maximum impact? How will they allow him to shine in the context of the background and still allow the background to do its work without being impeded by the feature? How will they find the right balance between showing everything he’s got and hanging him back quietly at the counter, exposing what is expected of him and then twisting it with the unexpected.

I’m interested in his movement and the new, supposedly straighter arc of his kick. I’m interested to see if Rohan and Jetta can stream towards him on either wing, if Reid can drag a defender, while he takes two, and Tippett can out-wait them in the goal square. Or if McGlynn will eat the crumbs before the lot of them. Saturday night at Stade Australie will provide a field undivided by camera angles, a proposition unmediated by commentators. Boys and grass and ball and a few hours to encounter Lance performing Buddy on home soil for the first time.


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.


  1. John Butler says

    I enjoyed that Mathilde.

    Do you think Lance and Buddy ever sit down to discuss the state of affairs?

  2. Lovely read Mathilde. I fear for the Buddy/Swans relationship. He’s like asbestos; it will take a while before the damage is seen.

  3. E.regnans says

    étonnant, Mathilde.
    How glorious to emerge from the cocoon of someone else’s subconscious making. A triumph.
    I wonder which of Lance / Buddy will perform this same trick.

  4. As elegant as a French Empire clock, Mathilde.
    I love a piece of writing that engages me, and I am wondering “where is this going?” and “what is this about?” But I go along for the ride because it is engaging and I trust the writer.
    Then half way through I realise the writer had an entirely different purpose to my ‘guesses’ but the prologue makes sense in an entirely unexpected and deeper way.
    Garrison Keilor does it all the time in his Lake Wobegon monologues, but in a lighter comic style. Peter Temple in his crime novels.
    Its like when you are young and trust someone to take you on a scary car ride, because you somehow believe that they will make it worthwhile.
    Brilliant writing and an insightful tale. Thanks Mathilde.

  5. Excellent Mathilde. I love how you explore some key relationships, and gradually reveal their inner workings. Like most worthy arrangements, the Lance/Swans/Tippett one will take time. But it might be squeezy in your forward line.
    We go home to Adelaide from Singapore twice a year, and my wife always calls in to her favourite coffee place in Glenelg. They still have a relationship. I don’t get it. Maybe I need to take coffee seriously!
    Thanks. A beautiful read.

  6. Excellent work Mathilde. I look forward to your match report and the debrief from the baristas!! The match against North in a couple of weeks may have an impact on your coffee habits however!!!

  7. I’d like to hear from the baristas.

  8. Rick Kane says

    “He grew a ginger beard and settled down” – noice line. Let’s hope Buddy and his beard take longer (much. much longer) to settle. From one who loved him too much. Cheers

  9. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Thanks for kind words fellas.
    Perhaps I will start a late Monday afternoon missive – ‘The Baristas’ Call.’
    And, I had quite forgotten about the role of the ‘beard’ in all of this. Of course!

  10. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Enjoyable read Mathilde love it when a lady blows the stereotypes away about following the footy look forward to more Footy and coffee chapters

  11. Lovely read. I must say I can relate to your description of the bemusement some people show when I start talking footy. But that’s tempered with not having a barista who also knows footy, in Canberra NRL rules, and most talk of AFL is dismissed as not REAL footy. My barista has a signed Raiders ‘shirt’ on his wall. Cheers keep up the writing. It seems to be coming along…

  12. kath presdee says

    I thought it was interesting on the Sunday and Monday after the Giants vs Swans game there was more discussion of AFL in Sydney than there had been for a long time.

    That said, looking at the media coverage of Lance Franklin, I’m glad he went to the Swans. We’ve benefitted by suring up our ruck and as our experience last year with Jeremy Cameron showed, it doesn’t matter how well your forwards use the ball they get, it’s that they need to get the ball; and there’s only so much you can do yourself.

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