Hockey Dogs

sponge cake 2

Hockey training takes place on an oval in Fremantle. It is a multi-use oval with cricket nets and clubrooms shared by both the cricket and the hockey fraternities. For the cricket families it would be a refuge from the heat. Somewhere to get a cool drink and away from the sun. For the hockey mums it offers warmth and dryness.

The building is made from dark brown brick from the seventies or eighties. A building made when we watched Countdown and listened to ABBA. The textured masonry makes you think of a thick slice of chocolate sponge cake. It makes you long for a hot cup of tea. Inside old wooden honor boards with names in gold lettering line the walls. An asterisk beside a name signals the person is deceased. There are the ubiquitous stacks of stackable plastic chairs. Many families have spent hours huddled in here while young ones take to the turf. Already I can imagine being inside when it is cold out and the Juniors are playing, regardless of the weather.

Parents drive up with kids who exit high cars like horse-riders leaping off steeds – gripping mesh bags with their armour (shin pads and mouth guards) – hockey sticks like lances brandished by jousting knights. (Do you sense already I have sat here too long?)

Most parents leave. They have stuff to do. So do I. I could grocery shop. At least I could get toilet paper. I could clean my house. Instead I stay to watch. The children must run down the steep embankment to the field. It’s the kind of steepness you can’t walk down. It makes you run, like you are falling over yourself. The field is marked up with hula-hoops and cones for dribbling and pushing a hockey ball around. I watch from the upper bank by the car park and the charity bins, by the side of the chocolate sponge cake wall. An old swing set waits to be swung on.

Other cars pull up and dogs pile out. They are as exuberant as any child. Some dogs come to the park with owners on foot from nearby houses. It’s that time of night – dog walking time. Some owners bring plastic tennis ball throwers while others bring a tug rope. Some bring just their pooch (and a pocketful of yellow poop bags).

In one afternoon – a puppy dachshund, a Siberian husky, a newfie, two bostons, a bunch of poodles, a border collie, a blue stuffy, two whippets, a pit bull.

The dog walkers take to the perimeter. These are dogs used to the hockey. They don’t go for the ball. They’re not spooked by hoards of teenage girls, ponytails bobbing, running up and down the banks for fitness. The dogs have eyes for one another and perhaps their own ball. Politely, they sidle up and do the nose to tail greeting. They prance off. They ask another dog for a game of chase. A play bow is offered. Invitations are made. There is zooming and frolicking of the most infectious kind. Smile-inducing dog play. In a corner of the park a man flies a kite and the poodles are off and over; launching themselves into the air, barking, necks arched backwards and noses pointed up, wondering what that strange bird in the sky is doing so damned high.

As the sun begins to dip the swallows are out flying low across the grass hoping for an insect. They make for good chasing. They are, of course, uncatchable. It has never stopped a dog. If you have the energy to run, then run. If your legs hold out, keep running. Never give up, no matter that thing you are aiming to catch is a bird. Ceaseless trying – is a dog’s great attribute.


hockey dog 2


Grace on the Park

Twenty thousand people on a park, jostling and moving together, swaying and gyrating to music is proof of the sociability of the human species. I am less sociable than most and sometimes a crowd like this is too much. But when Michael Franti is in the crowd you want to be part of it. Hands reach out to touch him. To steal a morsel of his sweat. I wanna see you jumping. And they jump. I wanna see your hands in the air and they raise and pump them. Anything you say and we will do it. His ropey hair hurls around his head, while his strides large and gazelle-like, see him leap across the stage. Barefoot. Real Freo Type. His shirt claims he loves Perth but you know he is really only talking Fremantle.

Under foot the grass is trampled flat. In front of the stage the dedicated fans push forward. To feel the bass. To feel the rhythm through their skin, not just their ears. You want your innards to vibrate. The earth shakes with the drum beat. Back on the rise the grass is spotted red with the cardboard seats like pizza boxes. Tents hug the perimeter no-climb fencing with their generic signs: Bar, food, toilets, ATM, tickets, First aid, recycling, water. Lines of people snake their way to buy a ticket to buy a drink. Little sachets of wine to be sucked on baby-like through a straw. But why leave the music? It is the music you are here for.

On a constructed platform for the viewing pleasure of the disabled, me and my eight year old are parked.  It is a logistical nightmare to get off the platform. It requires asking half a dozen other wheelchair bound people and their carers to move them and then risk losing your space. Queen to Bishop. So we don’t go. Don’t worry I have come armed with a box of  Shapes, a packet of peanuts, a water bottle. We are in for the long haul. This is festival survival.

Over the mosh pit crowd we have a clear view to the stage. When Bob Dylan comes on he is small. He has a cream wide brimmed hat. He faces side on playing the keyboard. Jasper says he can’t see his face. Neither can I. Nor the remaining thousands behind. And we are so close compared to most. There is no projection of him on the screens. We look back to the sea of people. Ones outside the perimeter too, up on the hill in front of the school tennis courts, take in the sound if not the sight for free. But Bob is moving. There is energy in his swagger. The music is still his, delivered by him, possessed of his spirit, even if his voice can no longer deliver.  Jasper has been drip fed Bob Dylan but the music is unfamiliar to him, the voice unrecognizable, as the man his father claims is the greatest, croaks through his songs. Jasper’s lids grow heavy. Next thing he is asleep. Mouth agape. As a hard rain is going fall. I cover him a shawl and he could be anyway.

A woman older than me, the carer for her disabled and non speaking husband, starts booing Bob as he sings. Boo Boo she goes right beside my ear. He can’t hear you I say, but I can. Please don’t boo.  It’s a travesty that he’s singing like that, she says. Like she believes he has the power to change the old, aching state of his voice. Maybe this is the best he can do. She takes her husband and leaves. Disappointed. How will they feel about Bob when they get home. Trash their collection? Will he no longer be a hero of the mute man?

It is mellow. The crowd wants more. Keeps praying he will look their way. Really look at them. Maybe say something too. How wild would they go if he said Hello Fremantle?  In the end he glimpses up only a few times. But when he does he seems happy to have seen us.

Grace Jones couldn’t be more opposite. You imagine her wishing to be devoured by the crowd of eyes. She wants you to see her all. Even the bits you’d rather not. She has a body of which to be proud and proud she is. In fish nets and a velvet corset she totters on heels. She nearly falls, swears and then makes fun of herself and her crew that she tortures. In her band is one of her sons and I wonder if he finds her antics excruciating. She is the original show girl able to effortlessly hula hoop through an entire song, proving her fitness. She knows how to make the audience adore her and she willingly gives them want they want. It is all artifice beautifully agreed to by both parties. Her severely short Afro and her sweat, every crevice and curve filmed and blown large on the screens beside the stage show her, transvestite-like and viper, trawling the stage like a street walker.The crowd both her pimp and her john. Pull up to the bumpa baby. Jasper is awake again and agog at her presence. He’s not sure if he likes her but he can’t take his eyes off her. Mesmorised.

We, the crowd, pour out like cattle. Slow moving through the narrow exit gates, churning sand beneath our feet. The Blind Boys are still playing and the crowd in the Big Top still hooping and hollering their love. Eight hours, nearly the equivalent of a soon to do plane journey to Hawaii, has passed. Not so long to sit and ponder perhaps. But stuffy plane air, not outdoors under moonlight with whiffs of spliffs, and clouds less entertaining than Grace on the Park.