We have this sport called Australian Rules Football

In Melbourne, it’s an institution even a religion.  Traditionally it is played on a Saturday afternoon and luckily for us, we were attending such a game.

Of course, this was last year.  This year, with the COVID 19 virus everything, including football has been called off.

Except now we have ‘flattened the curve’ football can start again, only without the spectators.  Social distancing means we can’t pack the stadium, or go to a game.  For a while, it was just be from our lounge rooms, watching it on the TV.

But, as some of the states began to get on top of the virus, football teams moved from Victoria, and played in Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, and the Northern Territory.

And as the Victorian situation got worse, the decision was made to move the grand final, which had never left the MCG in Victoria, to Brisbane. It was like America never losing the Americas Cup, until they did.

But, below, is the atmosphere that we have been missing, and has returned in a limited sense as coronavirus restrictions eased (but not completely), a game we attended last year:

The stadium is the MSG, one of the biggest and best in Australia.  Shortly after the start, I’d estimate there are about 40,000, but eventually, we were told there was 53,000, spectators here for a clash between the two Melbourne based teams.  It is not unheard of to have in closer to 90,000 spectators, and the atmosphere is at times electric.

For the die-hards like me who can remember the days when there were only Victorian-based teams,  in the modern-day form of the game, to have two such teams is something of a rarity.

However, it’s not so much about the antics on the field as it is the spectators.  They are divided into three groups, the members, the private boxes, and the general public.

But in the end, there is no distinction between any of them because they all know the rules, well, their version of them, and it doesn’t matter who you are, If there is something that goes against your team, it is brings a huge roar of disapproval.

Then there are ebbs and flows in the crowd noise and reactions to events like holding the ball attracting a unified shout ‘ball, or a large collective groan when a free kick should have been paid or by the opposite team’s followers if it should have been.

It is this crowd reaction which makes going to a live game so much better than watching it televised live.  The times when players take marks, get the ball out of congestion, and when goals are scored when your team is behind and when one is needed to get in front.

This is particularly so when one of the stars goes near the ball and pulls off a miracle 1 percent movement of the ball.  These are what we come to see, the high flying marks, the handball threaded through a needle, a kick that reaches one of our players that looked like it would never get there, an intercept mark or steal that throws momentum the opposite way.

This game is not supposed to be a game of inches but fast yards, a kick, a mark, a handball, a run, and bounce.  You need to get the ball to your goal as quickly as possible.

That’s the objective.

But in this modern game, much to the dismay of spectators and commentators alike, there is this thing called flooding where all 36 players are basically in a clump around the ball and it moves basically in inches, not yards.

It is slow and it is ugly.

It is not the game envisioned by those who created it and there is a debate right now about fixing it.

Here, it is an example of the worst sort.  This game is played in four quarters and for the first two, it is ugly scrappy play with little skill on display.  The third shows improvement and it seems the respective coaches had told their players to open it up

They have and it becomes better to look at.

But this is the point where one team usually gets away with a handy lead, a third-quarter effort that almost puts the game out of reach.  The fourth quarter is where the losing team stages a comeback, and sometimes it works sometimes it does not.

The opposition gives it a red hot try but is unsuccessful.  Three goals in a row, it gave their fans a sniff of hope but as the commentators call it, a kick against the flow and my team prevails.

It is the moment to stay for when they play the winning teams song over the stadium’s loudspeaker system, and at least half the spectators sing along.  It is one of that hair raising on the back of your neck moments which for some can be far too few in a season

We have great hopes for our team this year, and it was worth the trek from Brisbane to Melbourne to see it live rather than on the TV

Leaving the ground with thousands of others heading towards the train station for the journey home there is a mixture of feelings, some lamenting their teams, and others jubilant their team won.  There is no rancor, everyone shuffles in an orderly manner, bearing the slow entry to the station, and the long lines to get on the train.

Others who perhaps came by car, or who have decided to wait for a later train or other transport, let their children kick the football around on the leaf-covered parkland surrounding the stadium.

It is an integral part of this game that children experience the football effect.  Kicking a ball with your father, brothers, and sisters, or friends on that late autumn afternoon is a memory that will be cherished for a long long time.

It’s where you pretend you are your favorite player and are every bit as good.  I know that’s what I used to do with my father, and that is what I did with my sons.

But no matter what the state of the game, it is the weekend the football fans look forward to and who turn out in their hundreds of thousands.  It is a game that ignites passions, it brings highs and it brings incredible lows.

And, through thick and thin, we never stop supporting them.

It’s a cold snap, and a do or die playoff game for the Maple Leafs

It’s an interesting expression, a cold snap, which probably would be more suited to describing freezing vegetables than the state of the weather.

But, it’s a fitting description, made all the more miserable watching the Maple Leafs playing the fourth game in the series, vying for a chance to continue their campaign for the Stanley Cup.

It’s two goals to none and no prizes for guessing who is none, and as much as I hate to concede defeat, it doesn’t look good.

So, it’s back to the weather, currently a more interesting topic of conversation.

Usually in winter, in Brisbane, it’s a lot warmer, and it’s supposed to be 26 degrees Celcius today, which would imply blue skies and sunshine.

As usual, the meteorological department has not quite got it right. Right now, its just past midday, and the temperature is 22 degrees centigrade, but there’s no sunshine, so there’s a ‘feels like’ factor here, and my guess is it’s more like 12 or 13.

And, just as I stepped out to check the weather, and the Blue Jack scored another goal. It’s now 3-0.

It’s looking very grim looking in this direction which is towards the ocean.

Looking the other way, there’s a ray of hope with slivers of blue sky trying to break through the cloud cover.

Where are the Maple Leafs?  One gets the feeling right now, they’re just going through the motions.

Oh, well, back to the weather…

Meanwhile…

Hang on, we just scored a goal and it’s 3-1. Hope springs eternal? The player I follow, Nylander, scores.

Now we’re playing with an empty net, sometimes a dangerous thing to do. OK, I just managed to catch my breath, and we just scored another goal. The score is now 3-2.

How many players can you fit in a net, because everyone is in the Blue Jackets net? Attacking. Attacking.

Yes, another score. It’s now 3-3.

I can’t believe it, and neither can the commentators. I don’t think anyone can, but if there had been spectators, there’d almost be a riot right about now.

So, we now have over time.

So, time to calm down, get a drink and a snack, and get back in time for the fourth period.

Of course, we expected the Maple Leafs would continue with their late boost in momentum, but things sorts of evened up as the minutes’ tick by.

Thinking that it was bogged down, I left the room to do something else, and, lo and behold, Mathews gets a goal and we won.

Typical.

Then I went outside and the weather had changed, more along the lines of what the weather bureau predicted.

Or was it because the Maple Leafs won?

Let’s hope the sun keeps shining because there’s another game to go.

 

Winter is back

This is the view from my car:

Winter has returned and because it’s time to pick up my granddaughter from school, it’s raining.

Not cold though, so there’s no need to have the engine running with the heater on.

I’m guessing though if I was in North America, or Canada, in Winter, I’d be outside shovelling the snow, so I wouldn’t get snowed in.

And as bad as that sounds, if this was a COVID 19 free world, being in Canada would be my first choice.

In Toronto.

The obvious reason, even though it’s the height of summer there, its because the Maple Leafs are in the play-offs, and I know I missed the first two games, but I did get to see the third, moving our time.

It was, in the end, heartbreaking, and I know if Chester was still alive, he’d have some very interesting comments on their performance.

But that was him, for my money, they tried hard, had their chances, and the breaks didn’t go their way. I mean 3 to 0 up, and to lose in overtime???

It’s probably the reason why its raining.

Perhaps well get thw next game and it will be down to that all important fifth. I know, with the miracle of the internet, I’ll be there in spirit.

And playing without a crowd? It must make it hard for Toronto not having tens of thousands of their loyal supporters cheering them on.

Only one thing left to say:

Go leafs Go!!!!

In a word: Over

It’s over!  What is?  Well, almost anything.

A relationship, a bad day, a friendship, a long, monotonous lecture, and dinner.

It’s basically the light at the end of the tunnel, when it’s not the 6:32 express from Clapton, entering the other end of that same tunnel.

You could go over the top, which means, in one sense, over and above the expected, or way beyond the expected but not in a good way.

You could go over the waterfall in a leaky boat.  Not advisable, but sometimes a possibility, if someone fails to tell you at the end of the rapids there is a waterfall.  Just make sure it’s not the same as Niagara falls.

Still, someone has gone over Niagara in a barrel.

Then we could say that my lodging is over the garage, which simply means someone built it on top of the garage.

Branches of trees quite ofter grow over the roofs of houses, until a severe storm brings them down and suddenly they are in your house, no longer over it.

You can have editorial control over a newspaper

In a fight, the combatants are equally trying to shout over the top of each other

And sometimes, when trying to paint a different picture to what is real, you could say the temperature is sometimes over 40 degrees centigrade when you know for a fact it is usually 56 degrees centigrade.  No need for the literal truth here or no one will come.

Then you could say I came over land, assuming that you took a car, or walked when in actual fact you came by plane.  And yes, the whole flight was, truthfully, over land.

I don’t accept my lot in fife, nor do I want a small lot on which to build my mansion!

But the oddest use of the word over is when we describe, in cricket, the delivery of 6 balls.

I’ve listened to cricket commentary, and aside from trying to pronounce the names of the players, if you were unfamiliar with the game, being told this ball was outside leg stump, one of  several deliveries, the last of which was the end of the over.  If the delivery hit the stumps, it is then a wicket, and the batsman is out.

Wow!

Past conversations with my cat – 80

20160907_135509

This is Chester. We’re back watching the Maple Leafs.

This isn’t going to be pretty. While they have won a few in the last week or so they have also lost, and by large numbers.

I know this is a mistake watching it with Chester, the eternal pessimist, because his initial statement, ‘You know Anderson’s going to let you down again’ even before the match started, is a sign of things to come.

Yep. There it is 21 seconds into the game the other side scores.

Damn.

He turns his head and gives me the look, “I told you so.”

Double damn.

Nothing worse than a smart-ass cat is there, and especially when he’s right.

The game progresses, and then the internet dies on me, leaving a frozen screen. Bigger fish to fry now, with the internet provider, where we are, the NBN, which is little more than a joke. Try streaming anything…

It’s the same result.

Pixellation, blank screens, endless loading signs and then a seized screen.

Good.

For once I don’t mind because I don’t have to listen to the negativity.

Yes, they score again. And again. And yes, once again we’re looking down the barrel of another huge loss.

“Just what is wrong with your goalie,” Chester asks.

“Too many games and not enough faith in the backup, I guess.”

It’s hard to explain wat’s going wrong. I don’t know the ins and outs of the Toronto team because we’re not there. It’s the lot of a supporter whose 12,000 miles away.

Perhaps our year will be next year.

Chester doesn’t think so. Halfway through the third period, he walks off, the internet giving up the ghost. We all know how this end, don’t we, he says.

Yes. We do. The food you hate the most is in your tray.

Revenge doesn’t sound as good as it did in my head a few minutes ago.

Triple Damn.

Past conversations with my cat – 68

20160902_093736

This is Chester.  We’re both a little tired this morning.

I spent a little too much time on the next few chapters of my NaNoWriMo project and lost track of time.  It was going so well, I thought it best not to interrupt the flow of words.

But…

This morning, after getting to bed about 2:30 am, I found it hard to get out of bed.

Fortunately, as usual, I had the cat alarm clock wake me out of deep sleep to be informed that it was breakfast.

I looked at the clock and saw it was 6:30 am.

I mean to say, Chester was with me at 2:30 when I was writing, and he didn’t tell me that it was time to go to bed, much earlier than I did.

I think he enjoys torturing me like this.

So…

I get up, get him breakfast, some smelly fish food that even he turns his nose up at, and go out to the writing room with the intention of getting on with the story.

Next thing I know, there’s a gentle tapping on my forehead,

I wake up and it’s Chester.

What? I ask.  You can’t possibly want more food.

No.  I thought you were dead.

That’s amusing, he sees me asleep in bed and doesn’t think I’m dead.

How could you think that?

There are only two reasons why people become inanimate in their chair, they have suffered a heart attack or stroke, or they’re dead.

What about simply falling asleep because they’re too tired, and their faithful assistant didn’t tell them to go to bed earlier?

Look, let’s not make a beak deal out of this.  I was concerned.  Perhaps I won’t be next time.  A final glare and he jumps down off the keyboard, which left a page of endless d’s on the page I had been working on.

Perhaps he’s getting old and forgetful, or, suddenly he realises I mean more to him than just giving him food and cleaning the litter.  No, stop deluding yourself.  You’re his friend, he’s not your friend.

Oh, well, for a moment there…

We have this sport called Australian Rules Football

In Melbourne, it’s an institution even a religion.  Traditionally it is played on a Saturday afternoon and luckily for us, we were attending such a game.

Of course, this was last year.  This year, with the COVID 19 virus everything, including football has been called off.

Except now we have ‘flattened the curve’ football can start again, only without the spectators.  Social distancing means we can’t pack the stadium, or go to a game.  For now, it will just be from our lounge rooms, watching it on the TV.

But, below, is the atmosphere that we have been missing, and probably will for some time to come, a game we attended last year:

The stadium is the MSG, one of the biggest and best in Australia.  Shortly after the start, I’d estimate there are about 40,000, but eventually, we were told there was 53,000, spectators here for a clash between the two Melbourne based teams.  It is not unheard of to have in closer to 90,000 spectators, and the atmosphere is at times electric.

For the die-hards like me who can remember the days when there were only Victorian-based teams,  in the modern-day form of the game, to have two such teams is something of a rarity.

However, it’s not so much about the antics on the field as it is the spectators.  They are divided into three groups, the members, the private boxes, and the general public.

But in the end, there is no distinction between any of them because they all know the rules, well, their version of them, and it doesn’t matter who you are, If there is something that goes against your team, it is brings a huge roar of disapproval.

Then there are ebbs and flows in the crowd noise and reactions to events like holding the ball attracting a unified shout ‘ball, or a large collective groan when a free kick should have been paid or by the opposite team’s followers if it should have been.

It is this crowd reaction which makes going to a live game so much better than watching it televised live.  The times when players take marks, get the ball out of congestion, and when goals are scored when your team is behind and when one is needed to get in front.

This is particularly so when one of the stars goes near the ball and pulls off a miracle 1 percent movement of the ball.  These are what we come to see, the high flying marks, the handball threaded through a needle, a kick that reaches one of our players that looked like it would never get there, an intercept mark or steal that throws momentum the opposite way.

This game is not supposed to be a game of inches but fast yards, a kick, a mark, a handball, a run, and bounce.  You need to get the ball to your goal as quickly as possible.

That’s the objective.

But in this modern game, much to the dismay of spectators and commentators alike, there is this thing called flooding where all 36 players are basically in a clump around the ball and it moves basically in inches, not yards.

It is slow and it is ugly.

It is not the game envisioned by those who created it and there is a debate right now about fixing it.

Here, it is an example of the worst sort.  This game is played in four quarters and for the first two, it is ugly scrappy play with little skill on display.  The third shows improvement and it seems the respective coaches had told their players to open it up

They have and it becomes better to look at.

But this is the point where one team usually gets away with a handy lead, a third-quarter effort that almost puts the game out of reach.  The fourth quarter is where the losing team stages a comeback, and sometimes it works sometimes it does not.

The opposition gives it a red hot try but is unsuccessful.  Three goals in a row, it gave their fans a sniff of hope but as the commentators call it, a kick against the flow and my team prevails.

It is the moment to stay for when they play the winning teams song over the stadium’s loudspeaker system, and at least half the spectators sing along.  It is one of that hair raising on the back of your neck moments which for some can be far too few in a season

We have great hopes for our team this year, and it was worth the trek from Brisbane to Melbourne to see it live rather than on the TV

Leaving the ground with thousands of others heading towards the train station for the journey home there is a mixture of feelings, some lamenting their teams, and others jubilant their team won.  There is no rancor, everyone shuffles in an orderly manner, bearing the slow entry to the station, and the long lines to get on the train.

Others who perhaps came by car, or who have decided to wait for a later train or other transport, let their children kick the football around on the leaf-covered parkland surrounding the stadium.

It is an integral part of this game that children experience the football effect.  Kicking a ball with your father, brothers, and sisters, or friends on that late autumn afternoon is a memory that will be cherished for a long long time.

It’s where you pretend you are your favorite player and are every bit as good.  I know that’s what I used to do with my father, and that is what I did with my sons.

But no matter what the state of the game, it is the weekend the football fans look forward to and who turn out in their hundreds of thousands.  It is a game that ignites passions, it brings highs and it brings incredible lows.

And, through thick and thin, we never stop supporting them.

The January update…

So, where am I in the greater scheme of things?

Still scribbling frantically.  January is usually the time of the year we go jetting off to somewhere exotic, or, rather, somewhere very cold because here it is usually 36 degrees centigrade plus 100 percent humidity, day after day after day.

Well, this is me, stuck in the endless heat, slowly melting away.

And writing.

I have had a few great ideas springing out of the void, while I’m trying very hard not to think about how hot it is, or how recalcitrant Chester can be when he is hot.  What I don’t get is that in winter he will sit on top of the fire where it is about 2000 degrees and yet in 34-degree heat, he complains.

But enough about the cat…

With one of my stories, back in WW2, I’ve finally got to the back story of the man on the run from the Reich, a rocket scientist seeking a better life.  He is heading for the castle in southern Italy, not knowing that there’s a bunch of Nazi’s waiting for him to send him back home.

Of course, there is a hero, but he’s with the resistance and doesn’t know who the high-value target is that he’s supposed to save.

Where it is now, the scientist is stuck at Brenner Pass in the forest freezing and waiting for the Germans to find him.  Or not.

It’s still a work in progress, but the last episode is here:  http://bit.ly/2R6Dgiu

On another front, there is the Treasure story, one that I’ve been meaning to write ever since I read Stevenson’s Treasure Island.  My characters are not quite as colorful, but…

Our intrepid searchers are now up to the part where they’re trying to work out which part of the Florida coastline matches their map, and that’s no mean feat.

Especially when there are others, two groups in fact, who are also trying to find it.

This will all play out over the next few episodes but for the latest:

http://bit.ly/2RiseIa

Yes, there are two other stories, but I’ll let you know about them later.

 

Searching for locations: Toronto, Canada

The touristy things

On the way to the Hall of Fame, we found an ice skating rink

The Hockey hall of fame

The hockey hall of fame is a very large exhibition which would take a whole day to see everything.  We sat through a very informative history of the game and the origins of the NHL, which for people who do not have hockey as a sport in their country, is saying something.

We follow the Maple Leafs, coincidentally Toronto’s franchise in the NHL, and we have been here before for a game, which they lost.  It didn’t matter, I was staggered by the energy and enthusiasm both the players and the fans put into making it a memorable experience.

I’m hoping for a repeat experience.
St Lawrence Market

We walked 1.8 km to the market and it was closed which is about right for us as we have a knack for turning up and the place is closed, for instance, the Canadian club distillery in Windsor, Canada.

Perhaps tomorrow, before or after the game.
Red Lobster

Ok, we’ve been here before and it was beyond any expectations anyone could have for a restaurant chain.

This was no different from the last.

What more could you want, scallops, shrimp, and a fried lobster tail all drowned in a superb garlic butter sauce.

Add a side of mash potatoes, and a 20oz glass of beer, and there is the definition of heaven on a plate.
St Lawrence Market, again

Snowing, but not heavily

St Lawrence market, everything is very expensive, crab legs $120 per kg, lobster, $50 to $80 per kg.  Oddly everything is quoted per pound, and it’s a good thing that we can convert lbs to kg.

It is, to say the least, a disappointment.
Ice Hockey at the Scotiabank Arena

There was a definite buzz in the air, and heading towards the stadium was both us, and many other Toronto supporters.  Blue Maple Leaf jerseys were in abundance.

We’ve been before, and the last time the Leafs lost.

What else is new?

They have had a very good season so far, and are second on the ladder overall, so it was not without the expectation that they might win this one.

 

Never have an expectation.

They lost.

But…

It was an incredible game that was none stop action.  It seems to me that you require a lot of skill and skating talent to play this game.  I certainly couldn’t, and freely admit that I’d probably last about five minutes.

The score didn’t reflect the play, but in the end, the Leafs lost 4 – 3, at the end of the three periods.
Souvenir hunting and other stuff

I woke tired and exhausted, not looking forward to walking around Toronto.

Got up early to do the walking.

Oh, did I tell you, this hotel has a laundry and it is the bugbear of staying in major hotels, not being able to wash clothes?

Breakfast is included, but it is the main meal of the day so we feast.  The selection is incredible.

We had to go back to the Maple Leafs franchise shop to exchange a Maple Leafs Jersey, which was no trouble.

So near to the CN tower, we go in to shop for souvenirs, of which there were plenty.  I liked the stuffed mooses and beavers.

We’ve been up the tower so it’s back to the Union Station and a short stay at upstairs, a little bar overlooking the Toronto Pearson train line.

Time for tasting some Canadian ales, the first a Mill Street tank house ale, the second a Mill Street hopped and confused.  Seriously, that’s what they were called.

The drinking mood music was old hits like Queen and a little bit of country and western.

good view of the trains, too.

Union Station

Like all main stations very large very tall ceilings and openings that lead to the tracks of which there are about 24, and an underground system

Much the same as all large railway terminals and probably far busier in times gone by.
Dining, but not necessarily dinner

Not far from the station, and opposite to clock tower belonging to the old city hall was a restaurant called Bannock.

There I had a Moosehead Cracked Canoe lager, a light ale, and a house special since 1929, a chicken pot pie, and it was very good.

Conversations with my cat – 80

20160907_135509

This is Chester. We’re back watching the Maple Leafs.

This isn’t going to be pretty. While they have won a few in the last week or so they have also lost, and by large numbers.

I know this is a mistake watching it with Chester, the eternal pessimist, because his initial statement, ‘You know Anderson’s going to let you down again’ even before the match started, is a sign of things to come.

Yep. There it is 21 seconds into the game the other side scores.

Damn.

He turns his head and gives me the look, “I told you so.”

Double damn.

Nothing worse than a smart-ass cat is there, and especially when he’s right.

The game progresses, and then the internet dies on me, leaving a frozen screen. Bigger fish to fry now, with the internet provider, where we are, the NBN, which is little more than a joke. Try streaming anything…

It’s the same result.

Pixellation, blank screens, endless loading signs and then a seized screen.

Good.

For once I don’t mind because I don’t have to listen to the negativity.

Yes, they score again. And again. And yes, once again we’re looking down the barrel of another huge loss.

“Just what is wrong with your goalie,” Chester asks.

“Too many games and not enough faith in the backup, I guess.”

It’s hard to explain wat’s going wrong. I don’t know the ins and outs of the Toronto team because we’re not there. It’s the lot of a supporter whose 12,000 miles away.

Perhaps our year will be next year.

Chester doesn’t think so. Halfway through the third period, he walks off, the internet giving up the ghost. We all know how this end, don’t we, he says.

Yes. We do. The food you hate the most is in your tray.

Revenge doesn’t sound as good as it did in my head a few minutes ago.

Triple Damn.