Uncertainty is the Spice of Life.

Just back from holiday travels. Europe is wonderful but Europeans can be a weird lot. What’s this crazy obsession with queues over there? I reckon if I stood in front of a door in Paris for 10 minutes I’d have 100 people standing behind me. And another 100 pushing in. Maybe that’s how the invasion of Poland happened in 1939; someone got impatient in a queue for sauerkraut.

And the obsession with one way streets is psychopathic. In La Spezia, Italy, I was sent down a one way street into a pedestrian walkway. I was confronted with the great conundrum; reverse back up a one way street or drive across a pedestrian mall. It was a trap, a tourist black hole. I was traffic check-mated. I chose the pedestrian mall. Unfortunately a couple of lazy Carabinieri were parked at the end of the mall. When they saw me coming they did their best to look the other way, but the street was so narrow I nearly took their side mirror off. Apparently I’ll get a ticket in the mail.


Europe is a visual feast. It overwhelms the senses. And it’s not just the artwork masterpieces and architectural antiquity that overwhelm, it’s the condensed humanity that bursts the busy streets of the major cities: people. Everywhere people, all making their way in the world. Often it is the people I observe most closely, like the scantily clad Russian model who was being photographed in her briefs and a singlet outside Notre Dame Cathedral. The location for the photo shoot was intriguing.


One moment in particular stays with me. We were strolling across the Ponte Vecchio which is a beautiful structure spanning the Arno River in Florence. The bridge is lined with little shops selling an array of gold trinkets that would match the Crown Jewels. If you looked hard enough I’m sure you’d find a gold Gary Ablett figurine. The bridge is dripping with the stuff.


As we meandered past one establishment I saw a bloke and his wife/partner/girlfriend/FWB seated at a desk. The female was being attended to by a cunning shop keeper who was expertly wrapping her in an inescapable purchasing web. And she was delighted to be wrapped, like a suicidal fly in a spider’s lair. Her eyes glittered like the gold itself as opportunity for an expensive acquisition was laid before her. But the brilliant part of the moment was the bloke’s expression. You’ve seen it before. You saw it on the faces of Richmond supporters after the 2013 Elimination Final. You see it when you study the face of the Madonna magnificently crafted in Michelangelo’s Pieta. (Michelangelo must have been creamed by the gold sellers on the bridge too). Its ecstatic grief, a risen state of torturous consciousness, a reverse nirvana whereby the individual involved understands that this tragic and beautiful moment is unique. It is unique in its cruelty, and beautiful in its giving to another. There is a resigned peace in turmoil at play. This bloke was getting torn a new one for what he perceived was a good cause. It hurt but the pain transcended mundane human experience. We locked eyes for a moment. “I feel your pain brother” was the message I tried to convey. I think he understood. His head slightly bowed. It was almost spiritual.


It’s good to be home. It’s always good to be home. The first thing I do after a trip away is swallow a big glass of Melbourne water. It’s the best water in the world – by miles. Whilst we do water well there is no doubt that the Poms do pubs exceptionally well, the French nuance, and the Italians food. We had the best pasta in the world in Rome. I never thought a carbonara could taste so sublime. The pasta was hand made on the premises; rolled on the thighs of 50 virgins apparently. Though I’m not sure where they all sat whilst doing the rolling. With the carbonara I had a bottle of Nebbiolo recommended by the waiter. I asked him why he thought this wine was so good. He said that a good wine should be tasted with one’s eyes closed. If the wine speaks to you, it is a good wine. I tried it. It works. My wine said “order another one”.



Strange things have happened in my absence. The Pies have been deceived by their youngsters who may not be as resilient (or as good) as we thought. The Cats keep losing games but getting the four points. They couldn’t win the Grand Final if they started now but sit third on the ladder and will put the shivers up whoever they play. The last bit of footy I’ve watched in a month were the closing minutes of Geelong’s win over the Bombers. I was in the departure lounge of Tullamarine. The joint was going off. After the siren Bomber supporters sat in stunned silence. Some may have missed their flights.


The Swans became the best team in the history of the game according to the papers. But then they lost to Hawthorn who became the best team in the history of the game. Fremantle has left the AFL to re-join the WAFL. At least I think they have because I haven’t heard a whisper about them. There was a rumour circulating around the cafes of Rome that the Saints beat them by 50 odd points. I just laughed at the absurdity of the Italians and ordered a Serafina Chianti Classico. I also heard that the Tigers won in Perth and that big Tyrone Vickery hit someone. I laughed again and ordered another Serafina. I’ll sit down soon and find out the real stories.


I’m looking forward to witnessing the conclusion to this season. It’s been messy and unattractive in many ways but it still contains uncertainty. Great seasons are bursting with uncertainty. I still feel that this season has a sting in the tail. I’ll watch the Cats with the same acute anticipation that I had before I stepped on the plane at the start of my holiday. I hope the season finishes with an identical level of satisfaction that I felt at my journey’s end.

About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great stuff Dips a very enjoyable read , in relation to the driving you took the option most of us would have and a ticket may await , what are you supposed to do ?
    You painted the nuances of your trip brilliantly more please !
    Footy wise the pies youngsters have hit the wall 16 and 17 looks like being there premiership window it’s wired in that the hawks and swans seem to be as far apart and in front of the comp as , Melbourne and , Europe are but both will still be wary of the cats in the finals . Fear not re Vickery he just performed a act of thuggery he didn’t actually run back in to a pack or get a hard ball some things never change
    Welcome back , Dips

  2. Terrific to see you’ve come back as a Fiat and you’re firing on all cylinders.

    May have to organise and Almanac Ashes trip for next year.

    Any starters? Test into St Andrews Brit Open.

  3. Beautiful Dips. I find that all wines whisper (nay shout) “order another one” even with my eyes open.
    The long grind of the footy season is all the better for an absence that provides a sense of perspective, and that life contains many gorgeous sillinesses.
    Footy and Russian models in their briefs outside Notre Dame are just two.

  4. Great read Dips. Other peoples holidays always seem to sound much better than mine. Sounds as if you all had a great experience in Europe. I think you have timed your break from the footy well, it should be quite an interesting end to the season with a few twists and turns.

  5. mickey randall says

    Dips- terrific distillations of your travels. Well done on driving safely in Europe. I find it like juggling a dozen chooks and a self-pleasuring monkey. Welcome home.

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Dips. Though I lost concentration after reading about the scantily clad Russian model….

  7. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Bravo, Dips. Always appreciate some carefully observed and absorbed proxy travel. Wonderful images; I second the call for more.
    Vis a vis the French … I have NEVER seen my father queue for anything. I have seen him push in at the front of the queue with a ‘What, there’s a queue?’ expression dripping from his cheeks. Even in front of children. I have seen him mount and descend a median strip to avoid queuing in traffic. Don’t tell me the influence of the English is penetrating the channel?

  8. Hilarious Mathilde. I think I saw your old man in action in Avignon.

    Sadly, if I were being a touch melancholy for a moment, Europe was not as “cosmopolitan” as it was in my last visit way back in 1988. There is not much in the shops over there that we can’t get here. The quintessentially French lass, dressed to perfection and riding to work on the moped, has gone. The Italian leather is now made in Guangdong, and they sit on trains looking at their iPhones like we do. There is a worldly blandness pervading the place.

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