In January I attended a test match at the SCG with my father. It was an exercise in bonding, I suppose, but also a chance to be a part of something that consumes his life.
As a self-made sports journalist and long time lover of cricket, Peter Langston is the man behind popular blog The Cricket Tragics and many commentary spots for ABC New England. He is a published poet and also writes for sports news site Sports Eye. He has this week come on board with Tamworth Country Life online as feature writer and reviewer. In another life, he was a successful, award winning principal and teacher who I remember leading rounds of Kanga Cricket and French Cricket in the schoolyard of my youth.
His passions are many, and he shared one of them with me on a temperate summer day as we watched Sri Lanka take on Australia in what was an unexpectedly exciting match.
We made a bet – that we would exchange blog write-ups about the day – and below is his. It is a moving piece that goes to the heart of what makes our relationship something I cherish. I wish everyone were as lucky to have a connection with a parent that has so weathered the hail and sun of so many stages of life.
Enjoy. Thanks Dad. The wraps weren’t that soggy though (and who drinks light beer anyway?)
Outside The Boundaries by Peter Langston.
It’s early. So early that the manic little car the newspaper delivery guy drives has just buzzed past, slowed, buzzed, stopped and doubled back with its two stroke engine screaming obscenities. I don’t use his products but I know his work. There are streaks of light in the sky emanating from a point in the east just like those photoshop-heavy images favoured by lazy amateurs which means its either the second coming or the hot tea half hour before sunrise. My confidence is in the latter.
All this means I’m writing again and relieved. I have been convinced since the first favourable comment that it would leave one day, looking for someone more worthy – some sad little sod who needed a badly woven straw lifeline more than I did since I have become fat on successive sunrises. I have a multitude of fears, so don’t fret for me over this one. I have enough frets without having to take responsibility for outsourcing.
It’s been ten days since I felt the need to unscramble my mental eggs and make an omelette. You see, I usually wake hungry and do my best cooking either side of pre-dawn bird calls and the snoring from across the king size bed that my wife excuses as rem sleep but sometimes I get so sated by events during my day that getting out of bed some mornings seems like gluttony.
So it’s been for the last couple of weeks.
I don’t believe in finding causes but if I was to quote those fabulous Epsteins and their man Renault and “round up the usual suspects” then my last big writing meal and the company I kept soon after would be the first to be interrogated. Oddly enough, both have the game of cricket as their common context. The oddity is not in consideration of my near daily writing on the game but becomes somewhat kinked by the company being my daughter.
Your usual correspondent on these pages, Lake-O-The-Light happily admits to our familial
relationship these days, having previously seen and shared with the world my failings as a father, husband and why not the biggy, human being. There was a lot to share, not the least being the genetic birthday present which she unwrapped at 19. She was far too often in touch with my Darth Side but had earned the right to complain.
We are different now. Having removed my helmet, she’s discovered a younger, kinder face …one she remembers from the times of scraped knees and tears over a dying lion. Of course, I set the Darth years behind me some time back but redemption had to wait until each of those I love removed the helmet they saw masking me.
Whilst waiting for me to approve of her choices – whether that be lifestyle, ideals or the next tattoo – it dawned on her that approval wasn’t the point and that’s when she noticed the acceptance I had been offering as a bridge back to me. You see, I don’t have to approve of her or what she does or who her friends are. That’s the stuff of six year olds who can’t manage their thoughts without checking them through a parent filter to verify safety and suck on a positive love feedback as though the umbilical cord had never been severed.
They say love conquers all but it fucks you up first and Lake-O-The-Light has been both afflicted and affected by that which John Lennon believed was all you need. Beatles acid bullshit right there for you ladies, gentlemen and those enjoying the space between.
So buoyed by a substantial period of peace and laughter and the realisation that she was accepted, valued and importantly, enveloped in safe love, her bold adventurous step was to try and experience the passion and importance I placed on the game of cricket from the left hand seat of my now dated and slowing racing car life. She asked me to take her to a Test match.
To be honest, I thought she’d start talking about things she had to do after the lunch break and be gone by tea. For the uninitiated, there are three parts or sessions to a day’s play, each of them two hours long.
I was wrong.
This was an unusual and thought provoking day to be at the cricket. Before play, she asked and was relentlessly told the absolute history of the ground and woven into that narrative, my personal perspective as I’ve been coming to the SCG since February 1969. I’ve sat there on wooden benches, grassy hills and plastic seats for more than a hundred days and one of my poems is among the ground’s museum pieces. I talked to her not of scores and records but of people and the colour of my black and white days at the cricket.
This day, we watched from the stands before play as a revolutionary was saluted in his rest. His achievements noted but his character lauded, his broad brimmed panama hung from the stumps near where his commentary day usually started and his immediate family held hands and wept in love and gratitude with his broader, cricketing family. His mate stood alone, lost in thoughts of a good friend and missing his broad grin and mixed cultural cheek already.
The larger than most of us Tony Greig had been my last writing task – partially paying homage to his cricket and commentary but mostly recalling a conversation with him from my pre-history and what it revealed about a character who was often accused of being his public persona. His forgotten heart finally gave up beating for others.
She was moved by this and by the understanding that five days of cricket would be turned over to raising money to support women with breast cancer and that even the ugliest crowd behaviours could be improved when pretty in pink.
The strong sense of community struck her harder and in ways even her suspicious mind didn’t suspect.
Most unexpected of all, she enjoyed the play, jumping to her feet and roaring before tea when a wicket fell and applauding loudly as a Sri Lankan legend showed her the grace and beauty of strokes from a text book not so far removed from fine art. He daubed his strokes on a canvas of cross hatched green and she stood to thank him when he left, knowing his work well before she knew his name.
We had beers and ate soggy vegan wraps and hot chips we both should have avoided but sometimes wants exceed need.
On the day before the central core of her life would return to her from Canada, here she was, isolated in our relationship, in circumstances unknown and loving it like no other time in her adult life. Without distractions, she sat there thirsty for my company, wanting to see the buttons that pressed me into being, wanting to enjoy what I was willing to share.
I have always loved my daughter: her brilliant white genius with words; her refusal to submit even when life has her in a choker hold; her uncomplicated and embarrassingly direct path to the truth; her willingness to slurp the best fruits of life down her chin; her wicked smile; and her fierce love.
She is a woman one needs to be strong beside, not against, because she wears her undies on the outside. We each hold to ourselves cherished, well up inside moments of pride from the back catalogue of our love – long held safety deposits in our emotional banks for which only one other has the key. These treasures will embarrass her if they survive her edit of this piece: reciting a hokey little poem that 65 other kids had just recited, watching what they did and then blowing everyone away; writing a piece about my troubles for airing on ABC Radio; a beautiful poem she wrote,mounted and illustrated for me when I turned ancient (its just beside my left ear as I write); the courage to leave an abuser and reinvent herself, always protecting her pilot light. It’s a long list, so you get only a few before I add the following …… watching her hands do the lithium dance and shake beer from her plastic cup whilst we looked across the top of the froth and smiled. At that moment, in the back of the Trumper Stand, alone among twenty six thousand people, she said “I love you Dad” without need or celebration or expectation.
For years as an educator and immersed in a writer’s part time philosophy, I have promulgated the concept that it’s not the destination that’s important but rather the journey. Fuck that. The journey has been long and hard for both of us and this destination was sweet.
We bluffed our way through the next few moments realising there was nothing left to fix.
I was proud for both of us.
My life has been full of time: time to do this, time to do that, time to go, time to stay … and all timing recorded on a clock with hands sweeping twice as fast as normal. A lot of the time I got it wrong but on this delightful January day, I seem to have got it right.
The sun’s burning off the last of the cool air that was touching me softly awake when I heard the newspaper guy’s glorified lawn mower.
Time for breakfast.