I love London. After almost a decade in this bewitching, dynamic, frustrating but always stimulating city, London has gotten under my skin. The ancient streets rattle and wheeze with the ghosts of so many millions of souls, thick with the memories of Romans, Elizabethans, Victorians. These streets are my streets. From the glorious sleaze of Soho to the green elegance of Richmond Park, I am at home here.
But when September rolls around, and summer palls into a distant dream, I want to be back in Melbourne. I want to go to the MCG and scream my lungs out. I want a Four‘N Twenty meat pie and I want to nurse a warm beer in a plastic cup. I want to release my inner feral, and I want to see the Geelong Football Club win another premiership.
On Friday the Cats played the Hawks for a place in the preliminary final. They went in as underdogs, but you never know what can happen in finals football, and this has been the era of the Cats. Our hard gutsy football has earned us three premierships since 2007. So my finals ritual begins.
I leave my phone at home so I don’t receive text updates from friends or family in Oz. This also rules out accidentally clicking on Facebook. At 1pm, I realise that the game must be over, and feel trepidation and excitement competing for attention in my guts. The day drags, every minute registers as delay, delay from the match, delay from being able to watch the Cats competing under the lights of the MCG.
Finally I am home. My English partner is well drilled in playing a supporting role to the frenzy of finals. The pukka pies are in the oven, the Fosters are chilled in the fridge. I snap on my laptop and click on the ‘replay’ icon. The roar of the crowd and the thump of the ball at the first bounce seem to reverberate within me as a bodily thrill. Here we go! Here we go! But something else happens as the camera tilts up to take in the heights of the top stands, and then further up to reveal the glittering cityscape surrounding the stadium. It’s as though time becomes unmoored for a brief moment, and the boundaries that separate here from there, and then from now, drift free. The years in Britain slough off me like dry skin as I scream “Ball!” The past is so alive that it catches my breath. I see my beloved Aunty Marg looking back at me down the years, smiling indulgently at my enraptured 4 year old face; “Come on my little mate,” she says. “We’re going to Kardinia Park to see the mighty Cats.” The boys in blue and white are in my DNA. Finals time can make home seem so terribly far away.
Tom Hawkins couldn’t hold his marks and the game didn’t go our way. But like so many Aussie expats, next week I’ll be watching, and willing them to victory, from the Northern Hemisphere, and hours after the real time siren has sounded.
Image via Getty