Saturday, February 17, 2007

One More River - DoctorShoot

by DoctorShoot

Back street Aussie Rules.

Here the rules are god given, and the oaks and maples struggle for life in the valley clay soils of parched Victorian country Bendigo. They remember me and watch in silence as I climb the hill toward the forest of eucalypts which growl darkly against the morning sky of my youth. The paddock where I kicked a football seems to slope more acutely than I remember.

Long weedy grass clumps and tussocks grow where a hundred thousand voices roared as I soared above the pack to grab the mark of the century. I fired long punts and wobbly drop kicks at galahs that swung in shrieking pink and grey fits from sagging telegraph lines. I fired stab passes at my sisters who came with messages from my mother about dinner getting cold. They dodged or batted the ball away in annoyance. I bounced the ball and ran fiercely around my little brother who represented all defenders and non red and white players on earth. His laughter as he tried to lay a hand on me still rings as the forest trees rub together in the warm evening wind. The forest seems to suffer the drought more easily than the lonely maples and oaks.

I had wanted to wear skin tight skimpy shorts like the men did. I was unaware in my innocence of their bulging meanings below bright jumpers with numbers. I tore the sleeves from my best jumper and paid the price, but for three beautiful hours I ruled an empty paddock like Royce Hart, underpants knotted at the side to look like home shorts.

The citadels of glory were distant hopes for us, the country lads destined for hay carting and shallow marriage pools. Certain girls seemed to be attracted to the forwards, and some to rugged defenders. Some girls played with us for a while but dropped away as games grew more fierce and physical. They only flirted then.

I wander further up the slope away from the paddocks, into the tall dry weeds, and sit at the edge of the eucalypts. Their smell crackles through me tinged with wattle.

I have just returned from Uluru in Australia’s heart, where red morning suns crack through damp earth, releasing the children of Mutitjulu like swarming bees around a red leather balloon. They play football in mobs laughing and diving and creating new edges in ancient ways. I wanted to play with them but they are too fast and inventive. At their age I kicked end to end with a couple of mates. How stable and constrained we were compared to these red dust scamps with their twisting, bundling, melting, black scramble. They break apart squealing and colliding again, colliding each other into the dust.

From up here the old maples look distant, sagging beneath their transplanted expectations and Uluru now only a hazy memory. The rules are made but who are they for? It’s a question of culture the one hundred thousand throats shriek.

26 comments:

greengrass said...

A very enjoyable piece, Doc! I've never had any time for Aussie Rules, but I have all the time in the world for the universal nostagia you arouse with this tale.
You have a lovely way with words.

Ebren said...

Good work doc.

My only experiences of Aussie rules are when Paul from Neighbours played it, and then in the summer of 2005 watching it played on the Oval in London. Then kicking a ball around on the pitch that Freddie trod and KP scored 158 after the game was over with about 20,000 other people.

Top moment from that, a large man, chasing a high ball, clatters into and takes out a female spectator. As most people gasp, an Aussie drawl from behind me pipes up: "If you're on the pitch you're in the game."

miro said...

What to say but that I'm more than impressed. I should like my English was much better to enable me to express my views like you do.

MotM said...

Miro - Your English is fine - stop doing yourself down! The Doc is a bit of a master though.

I've already written a quick appreciative note on the GU Blog, but it makes you wonder how good the entries were if the Doc wasn't even worth the honourable mention!

Ebren - v good last para in your comment. Get it on one of the cricket blogs where the Aussies will read it and love it!

andrewm said...

Lovely stuff Doc, very enjoyable indeed.

MotM said...

andrewm - I appreciate your generous comments on my submissions and I'm sure other bloggers do too, but did you throw your hat in the ring?

PS I deleted the last post because I want to stay as MouthoftheMersey on the blogs.

andrewm said...

Mouth, or King of the GU Live Coverage as we know you (no offence, I enjoy your comments on the live sports coverage - they never print mine), I honestly have no ambitions in journalism or writing and no delusions about my ability to construct an interesting article. Commenting on a blog is one thing, but I'm no journalist.

MotM said...

andrewm - Fair enough!

I enjoy your always fair contributions.

Not sure about King of the Live coverage - more Pest of the Live coverage. Like the blogs, it's good fun.

andrewm said...

You know Mouth, I never would have guessed you and GN were one and the same. I remember you saying to another poster that you often appeared under a different name but I didn't make the connection.

You do know your sport don't you?

Nice to know the clique are being well represented on the OBO. Good man.

MotM said...

andrewm - Encyclopedic memory there!

For a while I blogged as The Tooting Trumpet because I couldn't work out how to log on as the Mouth at work!

As for the sport, I enjoy it and I've spent a lot of time talking about it and thinking about it - the blog is a great way of meeting like minds and talents like the Doc's here.

On a slightly maudlin note, but it does feed into this, my father died in December, and my brothers and I spoke of his love for sport (Everton in particular). We just didn't know how rare it was for working class kids like us to be taken to First Division football regularly, neutral ground semi-finals and Wembley finals, Test Matches and Gillette Cup ties, speedway and lots of local sport. It was a window when transport was available and sport was affordable and you could pitch up on the gate and pay to go in. What an education it was in sport as in life.

It's lovely to read stuff like the Doc's and Ebren's fine piece on Lazio, because it captures some of that enthusiasm in that generous tone - temps perdus indeed.

andrewm said...

Mouth, I couldn't agree more with your last paragraph.

You might want to think about setting up your own blog, if that appeals to you at all. I know plenty of people who would read it.

I look forward to your continuing contribution to GU.

PS. Again, I had no idea that you were Tooting Trumpet. I need to concenrate more.

MotM said...

andrewm - I've just read some of twohundredpercent's blog and it's great stuff. There's no way I could find the time or the brain space to write that well across that range of stuff! Kind words from you again, though - appreciated.

Re my previous post, my third para was intended to read "like minds. And talent like the Doc's". I wouldn't put myself in the Doc's league when it comes to rolling prose and evoking the wide open spaces of his home. Do you know that he calls his fellow Aussies "Crumbstealers"? I don't know if it's his original, but it's the first time I've read it and it's perfect, just perfect.

greengrass said...

I must echo the praise heaped upon you, my fellow-bloggers, for your articles.
I am in no way surprised at the excellence of your writing, having enjoyed your posts for months on the GU blogs.
Since I do a fair bit of writing myself - and teach writing - I am always quick to observe and enjoy good writing when I chance upon it.

HannibalBrooks said...

Doc comes over as trying too desperately hard to be a Laurie Lee or a Dylan Thomas. There is no sense of the writer's own original voice at all, although saying that, one of the winners, jonnyboy, was pure unadulterated Jeremy Clarkson.

To anyone with an English Lit degree, which I assume most journo's have, the over-contrived flowery prose would immediately smack, as the old cliche says ... of 'sixth form'.

I don't mean to sound too harsh but it would almost certainly be the main reason for it being rejected. or so I would imagine.

It has some nice lines in it though.

fourturntables said...

Fair enough HB.

Although I have to say that I would have most of the entries here over the Chelsea piece that was one of the winners.

Did you enter the competition?

HannibalBrooks said...

I think the Chelsea piece was chosen in a show of editorial diplomacy Ebren. I agree that it wasn't a gripping piece by any stretch of the imagination but it was refreshing to read something so unprejudiced about Chelsea.

No, I haven't writen anything (yet?), partly because I don't feel particularly inspired to write about sport and basically don't really have something that I'm burning to express, music is much more my forte. Its also partly because I am aware of how difficult it is to write well.

We jam along on the blogs the way that fledgling musicians to to their favourite records but producing a piece together that stands up on its own takes accomplished skill and understanding, I think.

It's relatively easy for pros to knock one out on any given subject because that is their trade, their learned profession ... the same way that my trade is that of a mixing club DJ. I could turn up anywhere and 'do a job' as they say in football parlance.

Put it this way though ... I wouldn't have been happy to submit any of the three 'winning' entries, especially jonnyboy's, which ironically gained most of the positive feedback.

I'm just still doodling and trying to discover my own voice not anybody else's

Ebren said...

Fair comment HB.

But I think part of the point of the big blogger is that it was to find a more authentic voice, or at least a different one.

I think going too "article", or trying to emulate a style seen on the blogs already has held back many of the entries.

My personal favourite is louisquatorze's second team article, and that includes the ones that made it in.

I would be intrigued as to their criteria they used to judge what won.

Good to see you over here, btw.

HannibalBrooks said...

I agree with everything that you say there, although I couldn't make it through Louis first paragraph on that one, I lost interest .. the first one about following English football from America was more engaging for me, but the construction was poor and too Americanised in it's language for what is both an English publication and subject.

The forum that has been provided is superb and I'm sure that everyone who isn't foolish enough to have been disheartened by the initial rejection will learn and get infinitely better as they hone and practice their skills.

This, what you have done here, is probably of equal value too ... you have done a very good thing and should be proud of yourself.

Ebren said...

Awww shucks HB, now you've made me blush.

It was entirely selfish. The reasons in my first post here cover it.

I actually checked with Bazza that it was okay to post here and create this first.

Bit a bit annoyed he had a go at me (although the text before that second link was gruesome, and I asked him to delete it) as some people link to their personal blog in every post. And this isn't about me.

andrewm said...

HB, didn't you outline a boxing article some months back? I was looking forward to that.

MotM said...

Hannibal - I think you're harsh in judging the originality of a voice. Everyone is likely to sound a bit like someone else as originality is a vanishingly rare commodity. Doc's piece has echoes of Laurie Lee etc for sure, but it's wonderfully well done.

I have to disagree on your comment re the pros. Yes they can knock out 800 words with a beginning, middle and an end with an angle to boot, but is it telling me something new or telling me something I already know in a new way? That's what makes something fly for me.

That's why I feel that the "winners" should be unlike the pros and more ragged or visceral what have you, than the products of eng lit and creative writing courses.

I've done a straight Kevin Sheedy appreciation for next week that I kind of hope doesn't win as it looks like an amateur trying to be a pro. The other two pieces are much more bloggers' type stuff, so they'll lose too. Once confirmed, I'll post to Ebren and await a hounding from the humour police!

Ebren - Fine job here.

greengrass said...

Fantastic -
this is turning into a writing school!
Great to see you on here, Hannibal: I particularly like your bit about fledgling musicians. Yes, posting on the blogs is a bit like jamming music. We certainly need to be aware of the danger of lurching into jamming Muzak.
Laurie Lee? Dylan Thomas? We're all
influenced by someone, and you could do worse than those two. I hope that I am influenced by them, and by Spike Milligan and Damon Runyon and a few more.
MOTM -
creative writing courses? I feel a bit of a dig there. Perhaps I shouldn't, but I've noticed a lot of jibes about creative writing in the last few years. I use creative writing methods, mostly with adults
at a "second chance" college here in Sweden. Many of our students are
under-achievers. My aim is to try to get as many of them as possible to shed their fear of putting pen to paper.
I think it works for a majority: if I didn't, I'd try to find a better method.
Now and again, I get invited onto "real" creative writing courses with people aiming to be published: I use creative writing methods to make song lyrics, and they seem to enjoy it.
That is my main goal: to help people to enjoy writing. I've never had to fight to enjoy writing, only to get better at it.
One spin-off effect is that if they can climb over the fear threshold in creative writing, they will I hope feel a bit more confident next time they have to correspond with the "authorities".
Ebren -
you have told me that this is "our" community, but it's your initiative, your baby. Congratulations for having the vision, taking the initiative and putting in all that spadework!
I believe that the GU's competition was used as a sop to take the sting out of the debate - and it worked.
I like the way that this blog is not primarily competitive. It is becoming more and more of a co-operative - great! If I write an "article", it will go straight on here.
This already provides better reading than the GU BB, and it can get even better.
The sky's the limit!
GG

MotM said...

GG - I'm all for creative writing courses, especially of the kind you outline.

I do think journalists use "product of a creative writing course" to do down often talented writers - I wouldn't hold that view at all.

Nevertheless, autodidact Danny Baker once pointed out that anyone on a course of that kind should just be doing it for real, and I feel he had a point to some extent.

greengrass said...

motm -
yes, fine, but many participants
on creative writing courses do want to get real, and many are there to hone their skills and pluck up courage enough to make the big leap. Some just want to be around writing people.
If a met a gifted autodidact, I'd probably help her/him with the spelling shit and advise them to send their work to as many publishers as possible before I got the chance to bugger up their writing.

MotM said...

We've had six winners so far, and this is still the best piece, by a distance

MotM said...

Doc - No entry this week?

I speak for many when I say that we're waiting for it.

Tweet it, digg it