Tag Archives: Kyabram

Telling tales

SIMONE’S QUITE THE STORYTELLER is the headline of the “The Kyabram Press” on 8 February 1980.  Underneath the bold headline it continues, “We weren’t quite sure about the authenticity of three-year-old Simone’s enthusiastic claim that an aeroplane had flown her to the local swimming pool.   But she was so solemn in her declaration about how she came to be at the Saint Patrick’s Swimming Sports Carnival that we were reluctant to question her.  With a happy smile she firmly reiterated that she had flown here in a big gold plane to watch her sister compete.  She was clearly sticking with her story”.

The local swimming pool was 15km from home … we’d driven our giant, canary yellow 1973 Ford Falcon.  Why would I change my story? Falcons fly, don’t they?

The day of the swimming sports carnival – I’m clearly tickled by something!

My mother shows me the faded article and rolls her eyes, smiling.

Mum: I thought you might have grown out of it.

 Me (laughing):  No, some stories need to be told.  And all stories need to be told in a certain way for them to be worth telling.

Earlier this week Mum arrived from Heathrow.  On my way to meet her I’d thought about all the travel stories I or my friends had experienced;  drunk and abusive passengers, intimate dalliances, unscheduled stopovers, luggage searches, lost passports, rejected visas.  I’d contemplated turning one of these into my blog this week.  There’s a story in most things if you look at them in a certain way, and my penchant for playing bard entertains and frustrates my mother in equal measure.

During my teenage years I was often mocked at the dinner table for my theatric accounts of daily incidents.

I exasperated my mother: When you report on what happened during your day you don’t need to commence by “Setting the scene”!

I irritated my sister:  Just spit it out – don’t make it a bloody movie!

I amused my father:  Alright bloody Shakespeare sitting in the corner – let’s hear your tale of the day. 

I’ve always loved stories – others as well as my own!

Mum’s brought some old photographs.  The swimming sports article is too faded to scan, but she has a photo that had been taken later that day.  I’m laughing as heartily as I do now, but probably not so loudly.  I’ve recently cut my own fringe and my red swimsuit demonstrates my usual subtlety.

These days the authenticity of my blog entries is questioned.   “Did that actually happen?!”  My answer is always “Yes … pretty much so”.  Some aspects are embellished and many are omitted but essentially, they’re true.  More or less ….

Life is filled with concrete facts; mortgage statements, electricity bills, mobile phone contracts.  Certainly my work (dealing with the resources that are human) is about data and accuracy – policies and procedures reign supreme.    But a world filled with statistics, spreadsheets and pie charts isn’t a world to be enjoyed.   As a notorious fan of structure and logic, I happily adhere to order and routine.  Precise information is a necessary evil, but daydreaming is a necessary bliss.  My brain is a wonderland of whims and fantasies.  In my mind the pixies freely roam the magical forest.

Creative non-fiction tells the story, but makes sure it is a story.  If you arrived at the swimming pool in a huge yellow Ford Falcon, then surely you flew there in a plane made of gold?  It’s all just a matter of semantics.  And what’s a little poetic interpretation amongst friends and family? …

So how did I pick Mum up from the airport?  By jetpack, obviously.


My father phoned me last night and, as always, he gave me his forthright greeting, “You have 20 seconds to say something interesting or I’m hanging up.  And you know the rules”.  The “rules” are the banned topics – anything he’s deemed subject matter too dull to be discussed.  This list includes home decorating, standard ailments (colds, stomach bugs, tiredness, headaches etc), the weather, anything financial, politics, sport, and work.   No wonder I’m a story-teller.

The underdogs

“Come on girls, show us what you’ve got!! Don’t let her get past you, Anna! Jump higher, Erin, HIGHER!!” Gasping and dripping sweat, we race madly around the netball court, desperate to show what we can do. We run, we throw, we shoot, we defend; we work our guts out. It’s a redundant investment of energy as we’re all assured a spot on a team, but we’re eager to do our very best.

Netball 1988: Kate, Inece, Colleen, Kelly, Anneleise, Mandy, Tina, Simone, Sharon

It’s 1988 and the selection for the Saint Augustine’s netball teams is taking place. Seven players make a team so with eighteen girls we’ve got two teams – allowing for a couple of spares. The four notorious netball mums are here … along with their cut-throat competitive streak.  They form the selection committee and screech at us from the sidelines.

We finish displaying our netball prowess and inelegantly slurp on sliced orange quarters, the juices dribbling down our gawky eleven-year-old faces. We wait for the verdict; which team will we be in?

The selection committee whispers together, occasionally nodding and jotting on a notepad.  After fifteen minutes the “Queen Mum” gathers us in the centre of the court.

 Marie: Thanks girls. Good work. We’ve decided the two teams so listen carefully. Team 1! Beth! Angela! Sheree! Belinda! Erin! Anna! Rebecca! Jane! And Monique!

The popular, the pretty, the prize-winning and the perfect are all present. And all four daughters of the mothers on the selection committee are in this team.  I look over at Claudine who smiles knowingly at me. There’s supposed to be an even distribution of skills on the two teams, but it’s glaringly obvious that one team has been composed of winners and the other of losers. This is the Alpha team.

 Marie: And now Team 2! Kate! Inece!  Colleen! Kelly! Anneleise! Mandy! Tina! Simone! And Claudine!

The “other” team.  The Scraps. The unsporty, the uncoordinated, the uncool and the unattractive ….

Both teams are allocated a coach. Sheree’s mother (slim, pretty Tracey) will coach Team 1. Overweight, frumpy Sharon will coach Team 2 …. from her wheelchair.  Belinda smirks at me.

The twenty-week netball season commences.  We play our first game. And win. Only we don’t just win, we slaughter Dawes Road Primary 42-3. We play our next game.  Haslem Street Primary.  And win.  36-3. We play the “Alpha” Saint Aug’s team.  And win.  We play Tongala, Merrigum and Girgarre.  And win.  Within six games we are undefeated and the team to beat.

Kate’s Dad (in the blonde wig) and my Dad (in the brunette wig)

The combination of our team is inexplicably magical. The odd-ball bunch of misfits fits.  Kelly, as Goal Attack, rarely misses a goal.  Me, as Goal Defence, rarely lets one through.  Sprightly Kate, Inece and Tina flit about the court like nimble pixies, getting the ball to where it needs to be and preventing it being where it shouldn’t.

For nineteen weeks we train every Tuesday and play every Saturday at the local outdoor netball courts.  We win every game.  Then comes the big day; the Grand Final.

One-by-one we arrive, greeted by Sharon.  Her two slobbering rottweilers are dressed in yellow t-shirts – our mascots.  We’re relaxed, not an ounce of tension among us. We’ll win, we know.  But we aren’t arrogant.  We’ll have fun. We’ll laugh.  The games never really matter to us – we just enjoy ourselves.  We’re a mixture of adolescents and pre-adolescents, but while we play netball we’re all joyful, uncomplicated children.

We hear a crowd roar with laughter from a distant court near the car-park.  There are sixteen courts with a game taking place on every one …. so literally hundreds of people look over at the commotion.  I see the cause of the ruckus and with horror immediately look at Kate.  Jesus Christ –our fathers have come dressed as cheerleaders!  Complete with skirts, wigs, balloon-boobs and pom-poms!  Kate and I are both mortified … but even we have to admit it’s funny.  And we’re all caught up in the alchemy that has taken place this season.  The losers are the winners.

And the Grand Final?  We won that too.


It was tremendous that our success defied expectations, but I always felt sorry for the other team.  They were, almost without exception, an equally nice group of girls and it must have been difficult for them to have experienced the horrible feeling that accompanies the failure to meet expectations.  Individually, most of them went on to be exceptional netball players during their teenage years.   I guess it’s just another example of how the performance of a team isn’t always about having the most skilled or talented people, but about how they function together.

After the afterword

Since writing this, I’ve been contacted by a few people from school (including some of those who played netball with me – both in this team and others). One sent me some photos so I’ve decided to add them!

Anneleise, Kate’s Dad, Colleen, Simone, Kate, Inece, Tina, Kelly, My Dad, Mandy

Kate, Sharon, Mandy, Tina, Colleen

The game in action!

Kate (C), Tina (WA)

Don’t look up

A hot December day. Kyabram, Australia.  A dark haired, eight-year-old girl dressed in a yellow swimming costume is in her garden, running towards the swimming pool.  From the house, her father yells loudly after her, “Remember …  don’t touch the sides”!!  She knows what this means.  The oval-shaped pool is a cheap design; half submerged in the ground, half above ground.  To enter it she has to climb a ladder and the sides of the pool are infested with spiders – mostly redbacks.  She performs a balancing act on the ladder to enter the water without making contact with the pool’s edge; exiting will be even more acrobatic and at no point during her swim will she go near the border.  The year is 1985.

…. 26 years later. Bendigo, Australia.  In the living room a commercial break interrupts the news.

ME:  Have you got a key I could use while I’m here?

MUM:  Sure!  The spare key’s in the usual spot in the garage. 

ME: Oh, good. 

I remain in my seat.  My mother’s tired and I should leap to get the key myself, but I know the garage and I can’t face it yet.  Only 24 hours ago we had arrived from the airport.  Pulling up to the garage my mother had stopped the car.

MUM:  “I’ll let you out here and then I’ll pull in”.

ME (smiling at our mutual understanding):  “Thanks, there’s no need for me to go in there unless I have to”.

MUM:  “It’s okay if you don’t look up.  They never drop down”.  (Our family mantra for avoiding spiders.  Apparently if you don’t see them, all is well, despite the fact that the ceiling is crawling with them). 

That night I’d slept sporadically, awake from jetlag.  I kept my eyes averted from the window.  The room’s spotless and prepared for my stay; fresh linen, polished mirrors, wardrobe space cleared.  I know that my mother would have used a broom to clear cobwebs from the window frame and all creepy crawlies would have been ruthlessly destroyed.  An unspoken ritual: she knows what must be done. 

My father, on the other hand, was never so competent when hunting arachnids.  We’d spot the creature – by spot I mean scream and run from the room.  We’d hear banging and a few obscenities yelled, and then he’d emerge announcing the spider was dead.  Inevitably it had escaped and would be seen hours later – dancing gleefully and laughing at us.  Our only way around my father’s lie was to demand to see the crumpled corpse; the unity of two sisters fight against the eight-legged is not to be underestimated. 

Two species of spider favour our house: redbacks and huntsmans – huntsmans my greater foe.  Harmless, but the size of a tarantula, a huntsman is spotted monthly, staring defiantly at us from a large blank wall, never even attempting to hide.

In the garage, ostracised by the household, both species (and quite a few more) angrily lurk.  It takes stoicism to enter this space and endure the hatred radiating down from countless eyes.  Currently, sitting in my mother’s living room, I can’t face it.  Of course in a week I’ll have my broom at the ready, the trained child soldier returning, deadened heart and nerves of steel.  Australian mercenaries are cultivated early; I’ve witnessed my then-four-year-old niece voluntarily kill with a shoe – that’s a close up, intimate weapon of choice and earned my full admiration. 

Eventually my mother rises, heading to retrieve the key located in a nook that’s certainly home to Aragog himself.  As she stands, I look at her and smile, ”Need a broom”?  “No, it’s okay, I just won’t look up”.   


Since writing this, my mother has informed me that redbacks are far more prevalent in her house than huntsmans – I think this was supposed to be reassuring.  Immediately following this conversation, I saw (and drowned) a daddy-long-legs in the bath (in Australia, daddy-long-legs are spiders not insects).  It’s going to be a long six months.