Trains,Pains and Silver Linings

By Paul Spinks

Seagulls fight over a discarded hamburger as I leave Bon Beach station with a Sunday hangover on the 10.45AM Frankston to Southern Cross. The train is already late and proceeds to travel at a pace mimicking tempo footy …slow and measured.

I’m on my way home via the noon V-Line to South Geelong and the Cats/Bullies game starting at 1.10pm.

The train continues tempo-transporting, provoking the cynic in me to consider if it’s a strategy to merge two schedules.

As we depart South Yarra station, an on-board announcement is made to the effect that because we’re running late our train will no longer take the Loop to Southern Cross, but instead go straight to Flinders Street …a defensive tactic to protect the bottom line? Flood Flinders Street Station.

Dilemma …change trains at Richmond or take my chances at Flinders Street? I opt for the latter where another announcement is heard advising which service to catch for Southern Cross, but not the platform number, though via a lucky guess and some dodging and weaving I board a train with a minute to spare, arriving at Southern Cross in time to score a V-Line down the corridor to Kardinia Park and the end of my footy puns.

The long queues outside the Cattery move quickly. I join supporters in the Gary Ablett Terrace, which is a heritage experience, a bit like being a live museum exhibit …standing room is ever-dwindling and this remaining pocket is, sadly, probably on borrowed time.

The first quarter is lacklustre, but that could have something to do with the beer and Merlot haze. A hair of the dog is needed.

Fans move and mill during the break so when I return with beer in hand I end up in a different location. The first sip is surprisingly tasty, and I look forward to savouring it. I put it on the ground so I can get myself sorted, but as I rise my I-phone dislodges from my coat pocket, hits the side of the mug with a perfect strike and spills the entire contents.

Though everything happens so fast I don’t realise this initially. It could’ve been divine intervention for all I know.  I deduce in reverse, piece images together like a movie montage: An amber splash …what the…? CUT TO: upturned beer mug. PULL BACK TO REVEAL: recalcitrant I-phone, face down on concrete nearby.

I’d like to apportion blame, but there’s only me or an inanimate object (that’s named in the first person anyway). A German girl once declared me a Tollpatsch (clumsy) after I accidently fed our evening camping meal to possums. “I like that in you,” she said. I’m not so enamoured …that beer cost $6.20.

At times like this you have two choices …act like it didn’t happen or face your embarrassment. I turn to the guy immediately behind, to the left, and gesture a “Would you believe it?”, but he’s stony faced, didn’t see the Beer-Spill, doesn’t care or maybe just considers me persona non grata.

Scorned, I don’t risk that disclosure strategy with spectators on the right (but I like to think, situations reversed, I’d feel empathy rather than Schadenfreude). Besides, I need to warn the bloke in front about the amber tsunami heading his way in slow-motion. He, in turn, informs people downstream. Bags are moved, and looks are darted up-terrace to the calamity’s origin.

Meanwhile, footy-side, the Cats improve in this quarter, but aren’t entirely convincing. That’s how they’ve been most of the year. Their recent form is better, but is it good enough to progress far in the finals? I reckon a prolonged period of best form is usually required during the season for a team to do well at the business end. I wonder if the goal-after-the-siren win against the Hawks is our grand final, or whether resting so many players against the Eagles will prove pivotal. We’re also ‘talking’ more than usual this year, justifying our form, spruiking up chances and I’m wondering if it’s to convince others or ourselves. But this could just be a hangover’s pessimism.

At half-time I buy another beer, and returning to the crime scene I make a weak joke about “trying again” and “hangovers” with the beer-waders down-terrace. This one doesn’t taste as good but I remain coordinated enough to consume it catastrophe-free (no pun intended).

The Cats never find an extra gear in the second half to make the game more entertaining, though the Doggies are good defensively, crowd our forward line then begin to find confidence, move the ball downfield with precise kicks and goal at regular intervals. Despite the mediocrity of the game I’m still amazed at the skill level of AFL footballers and reminded of the fine line separating the upper rank from cellar dwellers.

At game’s end I collect the Honda from the station car park …by now all glasses are rosy and half-full …the Cats had a win, we’re in the finals, and I counter-argue that we have five years of good form to draw on …and outcomes might’ve been much worse …the I-Phone could’ve fallen in the beer.


  1. Andrew Fithall says

    Enjoyed this story Paul. Intrigued – did this tale of the home game begin with an away game?


  2. Thanks, Andrew. Presuming “away game” isn’t code and you mean it literally …either way the answer is no. I was with a group of Saints supporters, but footy wasn’t the main subject of attention …I was attempting to regale with tales and slides of a recent trip to Japan.

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