The story so far

Monday, 26 July 2010

Sport in Australia

What's going on in Australia at the moment? Well, Julia Gillard did the dirty on Kevin Rudd (What would you expect from a girl from Barry) and now she is fighting it out with Tony Abbot to be the next legitimate Prime Minister. For those who don't know him, he is my local MP (or equivalent) and is famous for competing in triathlons wearing speedos or "Budgie Smugglers" as they are described so aptly. Far more important to the Australian public than the outcome of the election though was the outcome of Masterchef last night. Hannah and I tuned in to watch two hours of some really good cooking and the crowning of Adam as this year's top Australian amateur cook.
We have now been in Australia for almost nine months and are halfway through the winter and this is where things are getting mundane. We are making less effort to go to the beach and enjoy the experience of being in Australia and there are less "new things to do." We are beginning to miss people and wonder if we made the right decision, it almost feels like we are getting into a rut again and owning our own home doesn't feel like something we can take for granted anymore.

My experiences of winter before in Australia have been of cold, short days but not as cold or short as those in England and with the added bonus of clear blue skies more often than not. This winter however, it has rained and rained and rained and rained. Not as much as it does in England but enough to put pay to a lot of outdoor activities and fun we would have liked to do. Having said that, the winter here struggles to last a whole three months, whereas England's wintry weather lasts for more like six to nine.

So, the weather is better, but not as much better as the Pro-Antipodeans would have us limeys believe. That leads me onto another thought. If someone who exhibits a bias towards Australia could be called a Pro-Antipodiean, what to call someone who doesn't like this side of the world. Anti-Antipodean doesn't sound right. Maybe it should be pro-podean? Well, I looked it up and found an interesting site on the web which confirms my thinking. When describing someone who feels hostility towards Australians use Podean not Anti-Antipodean!

On the same site I found lots of other examples of "Lost Positives" - clearly these are words which once existed that people have had to "re-invent", quite amusing:

  • Hort (To inwardly encourage)
  • Nege (Only go back on a deal once)
  • Embowel (To return the entrails into)
  • Perative (Unimportant)
  • Ept (Highly skillful)
  • Evitable (Almost certain not to happen)
  • Gruntled (Happy as a pig in sh&t)

 That reminds me of a story a friend told me at work. He was working for this project to deliver new Access technology so they called it "The Access Project". Soon people were referring to it as TAP, but that sounded kind of casual, so when presenting it in a more official capacity they referred to it as "The TAP Project". What they were really calling it was "The The Access Project Project". Apparently the stuttering of the project name was rather apt.

So while our life here is not all sweetness and light, its not all doom and gloom either. Last weekend we went to the Blue Mountains and took the girls on a cable car, a "skyway" and the steepest train in Australia or New South Wales, definitely the steepest I'd ever been on. This weekend we went to Putty, did a bit of woodcutting, played croquet, drank lots of wine, had good food and watched Tom and Esme making spectacles of themselves:

We're already planning two more trips to Putty in the next six weeks to see the Black Wattle in flower and to celebrate a whole raft of Birthdays that occur in early September.
One thing that has improved the winter has been my discovery of Australian winter sports. I have become particularly interested in Aussie Rules (AFL) which I find a really exciting game to watch. It is especially good following the Sydney Swans at the SCG which is, in my opinion, one of the best sporting venues I have attended. The other great aspect about AFL is it is very family friendly and Hannah and the girls seemed to enjoy the day out we had two weeks ago to watch the Swans versus the North Melbourne Kangaroos, despite my preventing Esme from cuddling the opposition mascot. We saw a lot of families at the match, they handed out "clappers" for the kids to make even more noise and there was only limited use of four letter expletives, less so when Esme had her mouth full of hot dog.

Yesterday we went to the pub with some friends I have made, through work and the wider group through the AFL. Although most are childless, one has a baby and we really enjoyed spending the afternoon with them. All were really nice and made a real effort for Hannah and the kids despite us being a group of lads out watching their team get beaten by 70 points. It took us much longer to establish similar social lives in the UK For whatever reason we are doing much better in Australia. Whether its because we are making more effort, or that its easier to make friends or easier to get to see people in Sydney, we both left feeling really happy.

One funny thing about Australians is that they have four codes of "Football". That is Football (Soccer), Rugby Union (Super 14s), Rugby League (NRL) and Aussie Rules (AFL). This is very confusing, especially when someone suggests that "we go and watch the footie". To me that means proper football or or soccer, but to the Australian is means anything but football. AFL fanatics call their sport "footie", NRL fans call Rugby leaugue "footie". I've never heard Rugby Union referred to in that way, but nor have I heard them call football "footie". Now I simply say "Who's playing?" and have enough knowledge of the teams to know which sport they are talking about.

Playing sport though, is always preferable to watching it, but due to my relatively poor fitness levels, I have had to "build up" with "low impact sports" including croquet and golf. I played golf a couple of times in the summer with Matt and David while up in Coffs Harbour but the hot weather can make the game quite tricky, especially as exposure to the fierce sun for the three hours needed to complete a round. The Aussies do seem to adopt a more relaxed attitude to golf than the Brits. No insistence on paisley socks, collared shirts and smart trousers there. Shorts, T-shirts and wide brimmed sun hats are the order of the day.

The clubhouse was relatively similar though. A bar and a hot food counter are both common in clubs I've been to in the UK and where you would see a one-armed-bandit hidden behind the door at Gloucester or Painswick golf courses, at Coffs Harbour there are the twenty poker machines "Pokies" which are considered the minimum needed to satisfy the Australian national addiction.

One thing I did encounter though, I have never seen in England. Since we were playing mid week, the clientèle in the clubhouse were mainly of advancing years and by coincidence, I ended up following one into the toilet. I quickly went about my business and was washing my hands while, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the spritely pensioner was still standing at the urinal. What had activated my peripheral vision was his shoulder width stance and slight bouncing of the knees, seemingly to encourage some activity in the waterworks.

As a golfer, I would expect to see such a stance at the first tee and by the way he was "addressing the urinal" with a continued bounce and and a two handed grip, I could only suppose he had been playing two much golf and thought he was holding a number one wood. With that rather distasteful thought in mind and with other golf double-entendres entering my brain more quickly than I could expel, I left for the bar.

The final sport I was going to touch on was croquet. For those that don't know it, it is basically a cross between snooker and polo. You have mallets and a grass pitch and "pockets" (hoops) to go through, but no horses. I have been playing croquet regularly at Putty with Tim and sometimes Matt, Jeremy-from-up-the-valley or Dave and Lucy. Croquet is an excellent game, the objective being to get all your balls through the hoops before your opponent does. Generally, it is played as afternoon relaxation with beer in hand after some hard work in the morning. The tactics employed by both Matt and Tim are what might be described as vindictive, but having played with them, I've discovered that if you play to get your balls through the hoops rather than playing to prevent your opponent getting their balls through the hoops, you will lose badly.

I've never seen a copy of the rules, but apparently Tim has a copy of them and keeps us up to date with the changes, adapting them to suit his playing conditions. These adaptations are all important when you consider the conditions at Putty. For example, the WCF (World Croquet Federation) makes the misguided assumption that all forms of the game will be played on well manicured lawns and contains no rule for "Interfering with the vegetation". Putty Croquet includes rules to cater for this and for other situations such as "Disintegration of the mallet", "Encroachment on the playing surface by beast or child" and "Maintaining an inappropriate level of sobriety in the field of play"

In addition, to cope with the small differences in the Putty conditions, the PCF (Putty Croquet Federation) also includes a small laboratory for the research and development of new technologies for the advancement of the sport. The pace of improvements in long range anti-splitting mallet technologies can only be compared with the development seen on the cars over the course of a formula 1 season. The introduction and destruction of the first example of a cross ply wood laminate croquet mallet early this year has since been replaced no more than twice to reach the current Polycarbonate laminate models we see today.

So with Croquet, AFL, golf and the Ashes tour, for which I have tickets to look forwards to. life is quite good right now.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u

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