Tuesday night at the book group… readings in black and white *

By Paul Masters

It might have just been a normal, quiet first day in October when the book group met in an inner suburban house in Thornbury. They were, as always, more or less ready to catch up, eat, and to debrief on the human condition – work, partners, life and the whole damn thing – as well as discuss the book. It might be the latest interesting or just amusing, novel, perhaps Indian, perhaps replete with symbolism, perhaps Australian, or just a gripping read. Sometimes, only, they were books with a ‘female’ point of view of the world, just like the composition of the book group itself.


The book group offered many delights, including the food, the conversation or the book, and all appealed in different proportions to its members.  As the seven women sat around the table and dined another subject surfaced more than once. One deflated Collingwood supporter, Gail, who had been at the MCG and suffered at another Magpie losing grand final, was still tense, four days later, if not visibly distressed. She hardly wanted to talk about it, although others appreciated the blue and white victory, and/or its popularity. Nearly all had a sense of the pleasure derived by a replay of the Colliwobbles amongst the non-B&W faithful, the ‘ABC’ formulation, ‘Anyone But Collingwood’. Nor did Gail want to hear, she half-joked, ‘Bill’, the name of another member’s partner, who was happily on the side of the victors!


If there was not tea and sympathy, there was at least wine, cheese and understanding; sympathy and support were offered even from the couple of members who were not communicants of the footy faith. One aficionado, Carol, who was not quite a partisan in this match replay, was particularly considerate. She even retreated from the formal task given to her by that aforementioned partner (who was not her connection) – of giving a bag of ‘Premiership Chips’,  in the victorious blue and white club colours, to Jenny,  the other monotone devotee. Carol was aware that Gail, the most upset defeated Magpie, was taking it all too hard for such a symbolic moment, even if the target of this ‘very kind’ gesture was Jenny, the other grieving Magpie. She deferred her delivery to another day.


It could have been a grey night, or even another black night for the black and white, but in the best tradition of footy and book debates, they were able to ‘move on’. The bonds of friendship were even more important than the colours that sometimes divided them. Perhaps there was more to life than ‘Collifreude’, despite its most immediate pleasures.  In the best tradition of the book club, they returned to the big picture, to the book… and to the possibility, instead, of taking it not just one book but ‘one season at a time’.  After all, in footy as in books, there was always next year.


* Like all views from outside the boundary line this account does not claim to understand the intricacies and the personalities of the club, oops, the group. The book group is not that of Caroline Wilson.

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